All Souls’ Day
All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer for the dead, particularly but not exclusively one’s relatives. In Western Christianity the annual celebration is now held on 2 November and is associated with All Saints’ Day (1 November) and its vigil, Halloween (31 October). In the liturgical books of the western Catholic Church (the Latin Church) it is called The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, and is celebrated annually on 2 November, even if this date falls on a Sunday. In Anglicanism it is called Commemoration of All Faithful Departed and is an optional celebration. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the associated Eastern Catholic Churches, it is celebrated several times during the year and is not associated with the month of November.
Beliefs and practices associated with All Souls’ Day vary widely among Christian churches and denominations.
Prayer for the dead is a documented practice in Judaism and in early Christianity. The setting aside of a particular day for praying not for certain named individuals but for whole classes of the departed or for the dead in general cannot be traced to the earliest Christian centuries, but was well established by the end of the first millennium. Prayers for the deceased members of Benedictine monasteries were offered in the week after Pentecost and the practice of praying for the dead at a date near Pentecost was also followed in Spain in the 7th century. Other dates chosen were Epiphany and the anniversary of the death of some well-known saint, as shown by evidence from the beginning of the 9th century. By about 980, 1 October was an established date in Germany. The 11th century saw the introduction of a liturgical commemoration in diocesan calendars. In Milan the date was 16 October until changed in the second half of the 16th century to 2 November. This date, the day after All Saints’ Day, was that which Saint Odilo of Cluny chose in the 11th century for all the monasteries dependent on the Abbey of Cluny. From these the 2 November custom spread to other Benedictine monasteries and thence to the Western Church in general.
The official name of the celebration in the Roman Rite liturgy is “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed“. In some countries the celebration is known as the Day of the Dead.
In the Roman Rite, if 2 November falls on a Sunday, the Mass is of All Souls, but the Liturgy of the Hours is that of the Sunday. However, public celebration of Lauds and Vespers of the Dead with the people participating is permitted. A Sunday celebration of All Souls’ Day is not anticipated on Saturday evening, as are a Sunday Mass and that of a solemnity or feast of the Lord that replaces a Sunday. In countries where All Saints’ Day is not a holy day of obligation attendance at an evening Mass of All Saints on Saturday 1 November satisfies the Sunday obligation. In every country, the formula of the Mass on that Saturday evening is that of the solemnity of All Saints, which outranks the Sunday of Ordinary Time whose Mass would normally be celebrated on that evening. However, in 2014, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decided that for that year the Saturday evening (Sunday vigil) Mass in that country was to be that of All Souls.
In England and Wales, where holydays of obligation that fall on a Saturday are transferred to the following day, if 2 November is a Sunday, the solemnity of All Saints is transferred to that date, and All Souls Day is transferred to 3 November. In the 1962 form of the Roman Rite, still observed by some, if All Souls Day falls on a Sunday, it is likewise transferred to 3 November.
Wikipedia contributors, “All Souls’ Day,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed October 31, 2014).
“William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – The Day of the Dead (1859)” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau – Unknown. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
“Joža Uprka – All Souls’ Day” by Joža Uprka – Ophelia2. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.