All Saints and Souls Days: A Celebration of Prayer and Communion

October 31, 2019

All Saints’ Day or Solemnity of All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations,  in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October and ends at the close of 1 November. It is thus the day before All Souls’ Day.


In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven. Christians who celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), and the living (the “Church militant”). Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church, the word “saints” refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saints’ Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered.


All Souls Day (November 2) is a holy day set aside for honoring the dead. The day is primarily celebrated in the Catholic Church, but it is also celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and a few other denominations of Christianity. The Anglican church is the largest protestant church to celebrate the holy day. Most protestant denominations do not recognize the holiday and disagree with the theology behind it.


According to Catholic belief, the soul of a person who dies can go to one of three places. The first is heaven, where a person who dies in a state of perfect grace and communion with God goes. The second is hell, where those who die in a state of mortal sin are naturally condemned by their choice. The intermediate option is purgatory, which is thought to be where most people, free of mortal sin, but still in a state of lesser (venial) sin, must go.


All Souls Indulgences


An indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the first to the eighth of November; on other days of the year it is partial.


A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed [November 2 {as well as on the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints’ Day}] piously visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.


To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father. The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the visit; it is, however, fitting that communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day as the visit.


The condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary. A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once in the course of the day.

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