In the Church calendar, every year there are two fixed days set aside for the commonly known “All Saints Day” (1st November) and “All Souls Day” (2nd November). These are special days that Catholics look forward to and prepare for it. They have the tombs of their dearly departed trimmed and cleaned. They gather their family, go to the cemetery, bringing flowers, candles—and a good amount of food. The streets leading to the cemeteries are filled up with walking people and parked vehicles—and a good number of vendors.
Needles to say, such a full day has reference to “All Saints Day”. The day after is “All Souls Day” which is something else. There are barely people in the cemeteries and little traffic in the streets. People are usually home then, or are already preparing to resume their work the day after. In other words, the families in the burial sites on “All Souls Day” are quite few and far between. And most of them are there usually because they find it inconvenient to visit their dearly departed on “All Saints Day” on account of too many people around, too much traffic during the day.
It might be good to forward a better understanding of these two distinct days in the life of Catholics as they follow or observe the said two special dates in the Liturgical Calendar of the Church. For this purpose, it would be enough to call “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day” with their right and proper titles that readily and clearly bring forward their real respective meaning and implication in the Catholic World.
Instead of simply “All Saints Day”, the appropriate title of the 1st November observance is “Solemnity of All Saints. And instead of merely “All Souls Day”, the correct heading of the 2nd November event is “Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed”. These distinct occasions are thus respectively rendered not only more understandable in their meaning, but also more manifest in their finality.
The “Solemnity of All Saints” is intended to give recognition not only to those relatively few holy men and women who have been canonized and placed in Churches the world over, for veneration by their “devotees” pleading for their intercessions before the Good Lord—but also has respectful reference to those millions of equally holy people enjoying the company of God in the eternal Kingdom although they have not been officially elevated to Sainthood.
The “Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed” says it all. Let the living remember their dead parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and pray for their eternal repose in the eternal Kingdom just like all the Saints. Thus it is that 1st November is properly a day for giving respects to the Saints, and 2nd November is the rightful day for praying for the dead—lest we forget their need for prayers the whole year round.
Thus we say: May the Saints be praised! May the faithful departed rest in peace!
October 31, 2007