All Souls Day
“Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. . . . Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.” – 2 Maccabees 12:42–46
The Feast of All Souls is celebrated annually on November 2nd, the day after the Feast of All Saints, as a day to remember family and friends who have died and to pray for all souls in purgatory. The Church believes the prayers and actions of those on earth will help bring the souls of the faithful to the beatific vision, direct communication with God, and full membership in the communion of saints. In turn, the faithful departed pray for those still on earth.
For some, the word purgatory may bring up fears of one’s unknown fate, but when looked at closely, it should be seen as a time when a person is brought one step closer to God. St. Catherine of Genoa saw purgatory as a place where “rust which is sin, covers souls, and . . . is burnt away by fire, the more it is consumed, the more the soul responds to God. . . . As the rust lessens and the soul is opened to the divine rays, happiness grows.”
So why exactly should we pray for the departed souls of our loved ones? Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi, relates that we live and pray with each other on earth so we should do the same for the souls in purgatory.
A common form of celebration includes a requiem Mass, with priests wearing various colors of vestments—black for mourning, violet for penance, or white for hope of resurrection (the preferred color for today. Other ways include placing pictures of loved ones who have passed in a place of honor in the church or the home, lighting candles, and visiting and decorating loved ones’ graves.
Day of the Dead
One of the most lively All Souls Day celebrations is the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Though this holiday has many traditional origins, it has deep roots in Catholicism, as Catholic missionaries incorporated many native influences, including Aztec, into their religious teachings throughout Mexico. This multi-day celebration recognizes the opening of the passageway between our world and the spirit world, allowing departed loved ones to be present and accompany us. Families take several days in advance of the festivities to create altars, decorate burial sites, and prepare special foods.