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Origins of 'All Saints Day' and related observances

1 year 10 months 3 weeks ago Monday, November 01 2021 Nov 1, 2021 November 01, 2021 5:09 AM November 01, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

Following the October 31 festivities associated with the secular holiday commonly known as Halloween is the commemoration of a holy day observed by members of the Catholic Church and other religions.

The devout mark Monday, November 1 as All Saints' Day and use it to honor the lives of the church's saints who are believed to be in heaven. 

According to an article sponsored by the Your Catholic Voice Foundation, "The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. It should not be confused with All Souls' Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven."

The observance is also known as 'All Hallows’ Day,' 'Hallowmas,' or 'Feast of All Saints,' and though it is commemorated on November 1 in Western churches, Eastern churches tend to observe the occasion on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the origin of All Saints’ Day cannot be traced with certainty, and has been observed on various days in different places. That said, the first evidence for the November 1 date of celebration occurred during the reign of Pope Gregory III (731–741), who dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s, Rome, on November 1 in honor of all saints.

Local All Saints Day Traditions

On its website, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge lists November 1 as a Holy Day of Obligation, referring to it as, 'the Solemnity of All Saints.'

During such Holy Days of Obligation, Catholics are obliged to participate in the Mass and to refrain from unnecessary work and all spiritually-distracting activities.

The Difference Between All Souls' Day & All Saints Day 

All Saints Day is not to be confused with All Souls' Day, which falls on November 2 (or the 3rd if the 2nd is a Sunday). All Souls' Day is viewed as an opportunity for Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholic churches to commemorate the faithful departed and to pray for people who are believed to be in Purgatory, which the Catholic church defines as the place (or state) in which those who have died atone for their less grave sins before going to Heaven.

This belief stems from the idea that a person's soul is separate from their body and upon death, the individual's soul leaves the body in a sinful state, or a condition that is not entirely cleansed from venial (minor) sins. The Catholic church states that when those still alive on earth pray and fast or engage in other acts of self-denial on behalf of such sinful souls, their sacrifices can help these souls reach Heaven and experience "eternal sublime happiness."

On All Souls' Day, a 7-8th century AD prayer called 'The Office of the Dead' is typically read aloud in churches and some may participate in a ritual called 'Requiem Mass for the dead' and visit family graves as they reflect on lost loved ones.

In Mexico, on the 'Day of the Dead', many take meals to family graves, and leave food for dead relatives.

It is believed that the tradition to pray for the souls of the deceased who have not reached heaven began with Odilo, Abbot of Cluny (France) who, in 998AD, designated a specific day for the traditional observance. It started as a local feast in his monasteries and gradually spread throughout the Catholic Church towards the end of the 10th century AD.

Click here for more information on the origin of All Souls' Day.

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