All Saints, All Souls Day offer opportunities to reflect


By Anne Marie Amacher

The feasts of All Saints and All Souls have been a part of the Catholic Church for hundreds of years.

All Saints Day, which is a holy day of obligation, is observed Nov. 1 and remembers saints known and unknown in the church.

All Souls Day, which is observed Nov. 2, remembers the faithfully departed.

Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of liturgy for the Diocese of Davenport, said All Saints Day was first celebrated by Pope Boniface IV.


According to “Modern Catholic Encyclopedia,” the pope dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Mother and martyrs about 610. The feast at that point was observed on May 13.

In Ireland, the feast was celebrated Nov. 1 and eventually was accepted by churches in England and throughout Europe.

The encyclopedia states Pope Gregory III changed the Roman observance to Nov. 1 when he dedicated a chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica to “All the Saints.” The year is unknown.

According to the “New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship,” the solemnity of All Saints is both a look back at those who have gone before, as well as a commitment to what we must become: a holy people united together by a common life in God. It is a hope of our future glory in the new and eternal Jerusalem.  When the feast day falls on a Sunday, the Mass of All Saints is used.

Remembering the faithfully departed on All Souls Day goes back to around the seventh century. “Modern Catholic Encyclopedia” said it is believed that Odilo of Cluny established an actual date for the celebration, Nov. 2, about 998. It was not accepted in Rome until the 13th century.

The “New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship” states the universal church was granted the privilege of three Masses on that day by Benedict XV in 1915.

Deacon Agnoli said when the Feast of All Souls falls on a Sunday, the texts are from All Souls and morning and evening prayer are from the Office of the Dead.

The celebration of All Souls day is an opportunity to reflect on our own future and to celebrate those who have preceded us in death. It is a great profession of faith in the resurrection, not just as a reality for Jesus Christ, but as the promise of our own future glory, the New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship states.

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