All Saints’ & All Souls’ Day
November 1st and 2nd are two feast days in the calendar of the Church. The first one is the celebration of All Saints’ Day, when we celebrate the great Communion of Saints. On this day, we remember the holy ones who have been canonized and those who were not. Pope Gregory III designated this day for honouring the saints. The other day, November 2nd, is a day for remembering those who have passed on. The tradition started in the seventh century when Odilo of Cluny designated a day to pray and give alms for those in purgatory. The celebration of All Souls’ Day spread throughout the Church by the 10th century.
As Catholics, we are obliged to attend Mass on All Saints’ Day, to praise God and honour the lives of the saints. We remember our patron saints, most especially. The following day, All Souls’ Day, we pray for the souls in purgatory, and we remember our own dead by visiting their graves and praying for them. It is good practice for Catholics to attend Mass also on this day, to light candles for the dead, give alms and to do good.
It is also the perfect time to think about our own life, and our death. We are all going to leave this earth one day, and it is only right to make our years count. Do we deny the inevitability of death by spending our days as if we have forever? But many wise people have reminded us that death is but a continuation of our eternal existence, and so we must not fear it nor deny it.
The poet Khalil Gibran wrote the following lines about death:
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? / And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? / Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. / And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. / And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.” In this sense, death is a kind of freedom, and a communion with our Creator. It is not something to be feared, but something to prepare for and look forward to. Our final destination, to where all of us shall go one day, is a special place for our soul to finally dance freely, beautifully.