Feast of All Souls

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Mt 11:25-30

The feast of ‘The Commemoration Of All The Faithful Departed’, also known as ‘All Souls’ Day’, finds its origins in the monastic communities just prior to the tenth century. It was common practice for monks to set aside a day of prayer for their deceased. By the turn of the tenth century, this had become common practice in the wider church and today it is a major feast day in the Church’s liturgical calendar. The readings for this Sunday are those proper to the feast, not those for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A).

The feast itself follows on from another significant feast in the Church’s liturgical calendar, that of the feast of ‘All Saints’. This feast, again with its origins in the eighth century, celebrates all deceased ‘Holy Men and Women’ now in glory with Christ, known or unknown. A saint by definition is a person who has died and is now with Christ in glory. This includes canonised Saints such as St Peter, St Paul, St Francis of Assisi, St John Baptist De La Salle. It also includes those that, whilst not canonised are still with Christ. They may well be your grandparent, an uncle or aunt, your mother or father, a sibling or a friend. God alone knows who they are. Indeed this day is also a commemoration of our own communion with the saints.

This brings us to the feast of ‘All Souls’ Day’. On this day, the Church prays for the Holy Souls that, after undergoing further purification (purgation), will enjoy glory with Christ.

Over the years, some have thought the notion of Limbo and the Catholic Church Teaching of Purgatory were the same thing. They are not. Limbo was a notion proposed by St Augustine and was not, and is not Church Teaching. The Catholic Church Teaching on Purgatory on the other hand is crystal clear and well explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The teaching represents some of the most ancient of teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. The passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is set out below.

What this feast of “All Souls” clearly celebrates is the hope of new life in Christ and the love of God for all. It is a day in which we are rightly called to remember those that have gone before us, saints and sinners alike. We should of course hope that when it is our turn to be born into eternal life, that the prayers of our faith community will indeed go with us. The feast of ‘All Saints’ and the feast of ‘All Souls’ are strong reminders of the constant call to conversion and the call of Baptism, to be a faithful and a faith-filled disciple of Christ.

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them” 

David Ivers – Education Officer: Religious Leadership, Learning and Development

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