Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

All Souls' Day commemorates the faithful departed. In Western Christianity, this day is observed principally in the Catholic Church, although some churches of the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Churches also celebrate it. The Eastern Orthodox churches observe several All Souls' Days during the year. The Roman Catholic celebration is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to venial sins and from attachment to mortal sins cannot immediately attain the beatific vision in heaven, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass (see Purgatory).[1] In other words, when they died, they had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven. This sanctification is carried out posthumously in Purgatory.

The official name of the celebration in the Roman Rite liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church is "The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed".[1]

Another popular name in English is Feast of All Souls. In some other languages the celebration, not necessarily on the same date, is known as Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos or de los Difuntos in Spanish-speaking countries; halottak napja in Hungary; Yom el Maouta in Lebanon, Israel and Syria).

The Western celebration of All Souls' Day is on 2 November and follows All Saints' Day, which commemorates the departed who have attained the beatific vision. If 2 November falls on a Sunday, the Mass is of All Souls, but the Office is that of the Sunday. However, Morning and Evening Prayer (Lauds and Vespers) for the Dead, in which the people participate, may be said. In pre-1969 calendars, which some still follow, and in the Anglican Communion, All Souls Day is instead transferred, whenever 2 November falls on a Sunday, to the next day, 3 November, as in 2008.

The Eastern Orthodox Church dedicates several days throughout the year to the dead, mostly on Saturdays, because of Jesus' resting in the tomb on Saturday.

The Western celebration

All Souls' Day procession, Tucson, Arizona, 2008

Historically, the Western tradition identifies the general custom of praying for the dead dating as far back as 2 Maccabees 12:42-46. The custom of setting apart a special day for intercession for certain of the faithful on November 2 was first established by St. Odilo of Cluny (d. 1048) at his abbey of Cluny in 998.[2] From Cluny the custom spread to the other houses of the Cluniac order, which became the largest and most extensive network of monasteries in Europe. The celebration was soon adopted in several dioceses in France, and spread throughout the Western Church. It was accepted in Rome only in the fourteenth century. While 2 November remained the liturgical celebration, in time the entire month of November became associated in the Western Catholic tradition with prayer for the departed; lists of names of those to be remembered being placed in the proximity of the altar on which the sacrifice of the mass is offered.[3]

The legend connected with its foundation is given by Peter Damiani in his Life of St Odilo: a pilgrim returning from the Holy Land was cast by a storm on a desolate island. A hermit living there told him that amid the rocks was a chasm communicating with purgatory, from which perpetually rose the groans of tortured souls. The hermit also claimed he had heard the demons complaining of the efficacy of the prayers of the faithful, and especially the monks of Cluny, in rescuing their victims. Upon returning home, the pilgrim hastened to inform the abbot of Cluny, who then set 2 November as a day of intercession on the part of his community for all the souls in Purgatory.

Eastern-Rite Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox churches

Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, there are several All Souls' Days during the year. Most of these fall on Saturday, since Jesus lay in the Tomb on Holy Saturday. These are referred to as Soul Saturdays. They occur on the following occasions:

  • The Saturday of Meatfare Week (the second Saturday before Great Lent).the day before the Sunday of the Last Judgement
  • The second Saturday of Great Lent
  • The third Saturday of Great Lent
  • The fourth Saturday of Great Lent
  • Radonitsa (Monday or Tuesday after Thomas Sunday)
  • The Saturday before Pentecost
  • Demetrius Saturday (the Saturday before the feast of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki.26 October) (In the Bulgarian Orthodox Church there is a commemoration of the dead on the Saturday before the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel.8 November, instead of the Demetrius Soul Saturday)

(In the Serbian Orthodox Church there is also a commemoration of the dead on the Saturday closest to the Conception of St. John the Baptist.23 September)

Saturdays throughout the year are devoted to general prayer for the departed, unless some greater feast or saint's commemoration occurs.

Protestantism and Roman Catholic Church

At the Reformation the celebration of All Souls' Day was fused with All Saints' Day in the Anglican Church, though it was renewed individually in certain churches in connection with the Catholic Revival of the 19th century. The observance was restored with the publication of the 1980 Alternative Service Book, and it features in Common Worship as a Lesser Festival called "Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls' Day)".

Among continental Protestants its tradition has been more tenaciously maintained. Even Luther's influence was not sufficient to abolish its celebration in Saxony during his lifetime; and, though its ecclesiastical sanction soon lapsed even in the Lutheran Church, its memory survives strongly in popular custom. Just as it is the custom of French people, of all ranks and creeds, to decorate the graves of their dead on the jour des morts, so German [3] and Polish people stream to the graveyards once a year with offerings of flowers and special grave lights (see the picture), and among Czech people the custom of visiting and tidying graves of relatives on the day is quite common even among atheists. In North America, however, most Protestant acknowledgment of the holiday is generally secular, celebrated in the form of Halloween festivities.

Folklore

The origins of All Souls' Day in European folklore and folk belief are related to customs of ancestor veneration[citation needed] practised worldwide, through events such as the Chinese Ghost Festival, the Japanese Bon Festival, or the Mexican Day of the Dead. The Roman custom was that of the Lemuria.

In Tirol, cakes are left for them on the table and the room kept warm for their comfort. In Brittany, people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones, and to anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it. At bedtime, the supper is left on the table for the souls.

In Bolivia, many people believe that the dead eat the food that is left out for them. In Brazil people attend a mass or visit the cemetery taking flowers to decorate their relatives' grave, but no food is involved.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Mershman 1907.
  2. ^ The decree ordaining the celebration is printed in the Bollandist Acta Sanctorum (Saec. VI, pt. i. p. 585).
  3. ^ a b Anonymous 1911.
from Wikipedia


More Saints





Browse Saints by Category


Popular Saints

Rank

Saint

30.

Image of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin, was canonized on 10/21/2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk ... continue reading | shop

31.

Image of St. Elizabeth

St. Elizabeth

Not much information is known about Elizabeth, but she has the distinction of being one of the first to know about Mary's great blessing as the Mother of God. Zachary was a priest in ... continue reading | shop

32.

Image of St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226. He was the son ... continue reading | shop

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Giles, Abbot

St. Giles, Abbot

St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - September 1 St. Giles is said to have been a seventh century Athenian of noble birth. His piety and learning made him so conspicuous ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day
September 2014
S M T W T F S
123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930

Saint of the Day by E-Mail

Saint of the Day newsletter icon

Learn about the lives of the saints and other saint resources, including a calendar, over 5,000 saint biographies, our most popular saints, and a list of patron saints. 7 days / week. See Sample


Required


Female Saints

Image of St. Martha

St. Martha

"Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." This unique statement in John's gospel tells us of the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister, and her brother. Apparently Jesus was a frequent guest at Martha's home in Bethany, a small village ... continue reading

More Female Saints



Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts

Angels

Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel - Feast day - September 29th The name Michael signifies "Who is like to God?" and was the warcry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against satan and his followers. Holy Scripture describes St. Michael as "one of the chief ... continue reading


Image of St. Gabriel, the Archangel

St. Gabriel, the Archangel

The name Gabriel means "man of God," or "God has shown himself mighty." It appears first in the prophesies of Daniel in the Old Testament. The angel announced to Daniel the prophecy of the seventy weeks. His name also occurs in the apocryphal book of Henoch. He was the ... continue reading



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. Isidore of Seville

St. Isidore of Seville

Isidore was literally born into a family of saints in sixth century Spain. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, Florentina, are revered as saints in Spain. It was also ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Sabas

St. Sabas

Sabas was born at Mutalaska, Cappadocia, near Caesarea. He was the son of an army officer there who when assigned to Alexandria, left him in the care of an uncle. Mistreated by his uncle's wife, ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of St. Augustine:

Feast of St Augustine of Hippo: Defender of Truth

By F. K. Bartels

If there is any message which can be drawn from St. Augustine's life, and there are many, it is the message of repentance and conversion. This is a message the world desperately needs to hear today. It is one of heartfelt dedication to Christ as Master, Teacher and ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 2:1-5
1 Now when I came to you, brothers, I did not come ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102
97 How I love your Law! I ponder it all day ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:16-30
16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 1st, 2014 Image

St. Giles, Abbot
September 1: St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter