This feast that we know as All Saint's Day originated as a feast of All Martyrs, sometime in the 4th century. At first it was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. It came to be observed on May 13 when Pope St. Boniface IV (608-615) restored and rebuilt for use as a Christian church an ancient Roman temple, the Pantheon. The pope re-buried the bones of many martyrs there, and dedicated this Church to the Mother of God and all the Holy Martyrs on May 13, 610. About a hundred years later, Pope Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a new chapel in the basilica of St. Peter to all saints on November 1, and he fixed the anniversary of this dedication as the date of the feast. A century after that, Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration of All Saints to November 1 for the entire Church. Ever since then -- for more than a millennium -- the entire Church is celebrating the feast of All Saints on November 1st. It is a principal feast of the Catholic Church. It is a holy day of obligation, which means that all Catholics are to attend Mass on that day.
The saints are certainly not the exotic animals in the Catholic Zoo.
To know what the way to holiness is, we must go with the Apostles up the mount of the Beatitudes to draw near to Jesus and listen to the words of life that come from his lips. Today too he says to us again:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
Blessed are those who mourn!
Blessed are the pure in heart!
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness!
Blessed are the merciful!
Blessed are the peacemakers!
The saints took these words of Jesus seriously. They believed that they would find "happiness" by putting them into practice in their everyday lives. And they realized their truth in everyday experience: despite their trials, moments of darkness and failures, they already tasted here below the deep joy of communion with Christ. In Him they discovered the final accomplishment of their needs and longings.
Would you like to enter the Kingdom of God, you have to be saint. Would you like to be a saint, follow their example. Nothing more simple, nothing more obvious and nothing more beautiful.
All Souls Day
All Soul's Day (sometimes called the "Day of the Dead") is always November 2 (November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday). All Soul's Day is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. The day purposely follows All Saints Day in order to shift the focus from those in heaven to those in purgatory. It is celebrated with masses for the dead. While the Feast of All Saints is a day to remember the glories of Heaven and those there, the Feast of All Souls reminds us of our obligations of prayer for the deceased and to live holy lives and that there will be purification of the souls of those destined for Heaven.
Those who have passed away are as alive today as they ever were. They hear and see us and are close to us. It is we who have the veil across our eyes. And we shall see them all again – God willing that they are with Christ and we also end up with Him. Our souls never die – we live forever. And so life for the soul continues after death for all eternity, as before, to think, to remember, to love. And does not God's dominion and mercy extend over that soul beyond the grave as well as this side of it? Who am I to place the limits to God's empire and say to Him: "You go only so far and no farther?" Two thousand years after Abraham's death our Lord said: "I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. And of course all three of these guys were long, long gone from this earth. By this our Lord is telling us that He is not the “God of the dead, but of the living”. So if it is good for me to pray for my brother while he is still alive in the flesh, why would anyone think that it would be useless for me to pray for him once he’s passed away from this life? For while he was living I prayed not for his body, but for his soul. If this brother of mine dies with some slight stains upon his soul, a sin of impatience, for instance, or an idle word, is he fit to enter heaven with these blemishes upon his soul? No; the sanctity of God forbids it, for "nothing defiled shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven."[Apoc. 21: 27.]
Will I send him then, for these small offenses, to eternal torments with adulterers and murderers? No; the justice and mercy of God forbid it. Therefore, my common sense and simple logic demands that there must exist a middle place for cleansing of the soul before it is worthy of enjoying the companionship of God and His Saints.
Purgatory. So we see that the teaching of the Dogma of Purgatory is supported by Scripture, Tradition and our own common sense. God has equipped kids with a lot of common sense so perhaps that is why they accept the teachings of the church more readily than adults do. When have you heard an adult say “I don’t understand this – but if God says so then I guess it is”. We hear children say this quite often.”
No wonder Jesus tells us that unless we become like little children we shall not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. That is not to say that we should not question. Of course we should. But sometimes it just takes faith. God "will render to every man according to his works,"-- to the pure and unsullied everlasting bliss; to the reprobate eternal damnation; to souls stained with minor faults a place of temporary purgation. This means those who are in Heaven don’t need our prayers, those who are hell – our prayers can’t help them – our prayers can only help those who are in purgatory.
I can’t bring to mind any Dogma of the Church more consoling to the human heart than the article of faith which teaches us the effectiveness of our prayers for the faithful departed. It robs death of its sting. It surrounds our mourning with a rainbow of hope. It softens the bitterness of our sorrow, and reconciles us to our loss. It keeps us in touch with the departed dead just as much as correspondence keeps us in touch with the absent living.
It preserves their memory fresh and green in our hearts. We know they are always with us. As for Purgatory ... Many English-speaking Christians (both Catholic and non-Catholic) are somehow under the ridiculous impression that it is some kind of medieval invention of the Church and not the ancient and consistent belief of Apostolic Christians. It may not have been called purgatory from the very beginning but both Catholics and Jews have been praying for the repose of the souls of the dead from the very beginning.
We are members of the communion of saints, which includes all in Heaven and Purgatory, and all those living the Gospel on earth. The Church invites us to pray and do penance for those in Purgatory, and to give alms to the poor and offer indulgences for the souls in Purgatory. The Mass is even more important than indulgences. Of all we can do to help those in Purgatory, there is nothing more precious than to offer the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
This month we invite you to include the names of those of your dearly departed whom you wish to remember in our book of Remembrance. During Mass we will remember all those included in the book for, as I said, there is no greater prayer we can offer for them than the Sacrifice of the Mass. Imagine the joy of one day entering Heaven and having hundreds, perhaps thousands of souls whose Purgatory we lessened by offering Masses and indulgences, to greet us and thank us for our efforts. And, certainly the souls we have helped leave Purgatory and enter heaven are already praying for us while we are still here on earth. Through our prayers, Masses, indulgences and other good works, "May the souls of the faithful departed through the Mercy of Christ, rest in peace. Amen."