Friday, November 1, 2013

Celebrating All Saints' and All Souls'

All Saints’ Day (a holy day of obligation) is commonly thought to be a celebration of every soul in heaven. In fact, however, the history of the feast proves it to be considerably more exclusive. A sermon by Rabanus Tarentinus teaches that in the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV (reigned 608-615) asked the Roman emperor Phocas to give the Church the temple known as the Pantheon, a name that means “all the gods.”

The sermon says the pontiff then chose November 1 as the day that “throughout the world, there should be a commemoration of all saints; this was in order to compensate for what might have been lacking, through human weakness, in the celebration of their individual feasts.”

On Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day, we have the opportunity to pray for loved ones and others who have died, but are not formally honored with the title of “saint,” and who have not yet entered into the eternal glory of heaven. We cannot number these souls, so St. Augustine recommends prayers “for all the faithful departed, so that no one may be overlooked who could and should benefit from them. For it is better that there should be too much … than that they should be lacking.”

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