All Saints Day is coming up on Thursday, November 1, and is a solemnity of the Church and a Holy Day of Obligation. Halloween gets all of the publicity, but Halloween actually gets its name from All Saints Day. Halloween is just a smashed together version of All Hallows Eve, and “hallow” is just another way of saying “holy” or “saint,” so Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day.
On Thursday we’ll celebrate all of the saints, not just one specific saint, and the idea that we are all called to holiness and sanctity. November is the last month of the liturgical year, before we begin preparing for the birth of Jesus during Advent. So, since it’s the last month of the liturgical year, and, in the northern hemisphere, is the end of the season of fall, we set November aside to think about the last things, death, judgement, heaven, and hell. We begin this month be reflecting on the purpose of life, which is to get to glorify God, to become a saint, and to get to heaven, in that order. Then, during the next few days, we visit the graves of our loved ones, pray for them, and ask them to pray for us.
One of the best things that we can do during the first week of November is to pray at a cemetery for the dearly departed and the souls in purgatory. I’ll be visiting my families mausoleums at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 and St. Patrick Cemetery No. 1. No one likes to think about death, and it can be very difficult to visit the graves of our loved ones, but as Catholics we know that death cannot overcome that bonds of the Holy Spirit that tie us together. We are all one family of God, those of us still in the middle of our earthly pilgrimage, those in purgatory preparing for heaven, and those experiencing complete beatitude and joy in heaven.
On all saints day, take some time to remember the stories of our older brothers and sisters in Christ who are already in heaven. They can teach us so much by the way they lived their lives, and they can still help us by their prayers. Then take some time to remember the souls in purgatory. They will one day be among the saints in heaven, but we can help them get there with our prayers. The Church offers a plenary indulgence to anyone who prays at a cemetery during the first week of November, but only if you offer that indulgence for the souls in purgatory. Even if you can’t get to a cemetery to pray, the prayers that you offer at home are heard by God.
Here are the instructions for gaining the All Souls Day Indulgence.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.