Sunday, November 1, 2009
All Souls Day - November 2
All Soul's Day (sometimes called the "Day of the Dead", "Feast of All Souls," or "Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed") is always November 2 (November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday).
The day purposely follows All Saint's Day in order to shift the focus from those in heaven to those in purgatory. It is celebrated with masses and festivities in honor of 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 to live holy lives and that there will be purification of the souls of those destined for Heaven.
The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, alms deeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass.
The traditions of the Feast of All Souls began independently of the Feast of All Saints. In the early days of Christianity the names of the departed brethren were entered in the diptychs. The Feast of All Souls owes its beginning to seventh century monks who decided to offer the mass on the day after Pentecost for their deceased community members.
In Spain there was such a day on Saturday before Sexagesima or before Pentecost, at the time of St. Isidore (d. 636). In Germany there existed (according to the testimony of Widukind, Abbot of Corvey, c. 980) a time-honoured ceremony of praying to the dead on 1 October. This was accepted and sanctified by the Church.
In the late tenth century, the Benedictine monastery in Cluny chose to move their mass for their dead to November 2, the day after the Feast of all Saints. St. Odilo of Cluny (d. 1048) ordered the commemoration of all the faithful departed to be held annually in the monasteries of his congregation. Thence it spread among the other congregations of the Benedictines and among the Carthusians.
Of the dioceses, Liège was the first to adopt it under Bishop Notger (d. 1008). It is then found in the martyrology of St. Protadius of Besançon (1053-66). Bishop Otricus (1120-25) introduced it into Milan for the 15 October. In Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, priests on this day say three Masses. A similar concession for the entire world was asked of Pope Leo XIII. He would not grant the favour but ordered a special Requiem on Sunday, 30 September, 1888.