All Soul’s Day

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All Souls Day follows All Saints Day, and commemorates the faithful departed, those who die in God’s faith and friendship. However, Catholics believe that not all those who die in God’s grace are immediately ready for the Beatific vision, i.e. the reality and goodness of God and heaven, so they must be purified of “lesser faults,” and the temporal effects of sin. The Catholic Church calls this purification of the elect, “purgatory.”

The Catholic teaching on Purgatory essentially requires belief in two realities:
1. that there will be a purification of believers prior to entering heaven and
2. that the prayers and masses of the faithful in some way benefit those in the state of purification.

As to the duration, place, and exact nature of this purification, the Church has no official dogma, although Saint Augustine and others used fire as a way to explain the nature of the purification. Many faithful Catholics, including Pope Benedict XVI, grant that Purgatory may be an existential state as opposed to a temporal place. In other words, Purgatory may be something we experience instantaneously, because it is outside of the confines of created time and space. The official dogma of Purgatory is hardly offensive, even if the popular understanding of it has led to confusion. As a more everyday explanation, many liken Purgatory to a place to “clean up” oneself before going into the presence of Almighty God.

All Souls is the day to remember, pray for, and offer requiem masses up for these faithful departed in the state of purification. Typically Christians will take this day to offer prayers up on behalf of their departed relatives and friends. Others may remember influential individuals that they never knew personally, such as presidents, musicians, etc. This may be done in the form of the Office of the Dead (Defunctorum officium), i.e. a prayer service offered in memory of departed loved ones. Often this office is prayed on the anniversary (or eve) of the death of a loved one, or on All Souls’ Day.

Christians have been praying for their departed brothers and sisters since the earliest days of Christianity. Early liturgies and inscriptions on catacomb walls attest to the ancientness of prayers for the dead, even if the Church needed more time to develop a substantial theology behind the practice. Praying for the dead is actually borrowed from Judaism, as indicated in 2 Maccabees 12:41-42.

In the New Testament, St Paul prays for mercy for his departed friend Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18). Early Christian writers Tertullian and St. Cyprian testify to the regular practice of praying for the souls of the departed. Tertullian justified the practice based on custom and Tradition, and not on explicit scriptural teaching. This demonstrates that Christians believed that their prayers could somehow have a positive effect on the souls of departed believers. Closely connected to the ancient practice of praying for the dead is the belief in an explicit state called purgatory. The New Testament hints at a purification of believers after death. For example, Saint Paul speaks of being saved, “but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). Over time, many Church Fathers, including St. Augustine, e.g. in Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love and City of God, further developed the concept of a purgation of sins through fire after death.

In the early days, departed Christians’ names were placed on diptychs. In the sixth century, Benedictine communities held commemorations for the departed on the feast of Pentecost. All Souls’ Day became a universal festival largely on account of the influence of Odilo of Cluny in AD 998, when he commanded its annual celebration in the Benedictine houses of his congregation. This soon spread to the Carthusian congregations as well. The day was celebrated on various days, including October 15th in 12th century Milan. Today all Western Catholics celebrate All Souls’ Day on November 2

Comments

8 COMMENTS

  1. I have a question, I just want to know what the catholic teachings like all soul’s day are based on?

    I’ve been looking through my Bible, and according to

    Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

    Hebrew 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

    James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

    2Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    2Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    2Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

    So I want to know where all these doctrines come from in all honest. Are they based on the Word of God.

    Do they contradict existing scripture, because God who does not lies and knows everything cannot contradict himself.

    I was looking at Ezekiel 18 last night, which my pastor pointed out how God judges those who have perished.


    I was told that a lot of the Catholic faith is not based on teachings of scripture and if it is a man made doctrine then will it stand in the face of God who is not influenced by the will of man?

    I just want an honest answer, not a generic one because I do have a Catholic friend and she is very dear to me but I am afraid that what she believes, though seems godly and wholesome, will not stand before the LORD God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth.

    The same goes for all Catholics who continue. I’m concerned. I know of those who earnestly desire to serve the LORD in truth and I’ve heard of testimonies of why some of them are no longer Catholics, why is that?

    If you are the ‘True’ Church then why are there some much doctrines that were not taught by Christ.

    Please tell me. I’m very concerned.

    • John 21:25 – There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
      1 Corinthians 11:2 – I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.
      2 Thessalonians 2:15 – Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.

      The books of the Bible were written over a span of decades in the first century. Until the books were written, all the Christians had was oral traditions handed down from the Apostles. The book of Acts shows the Christian missionaries not bringing with them any scriptures. Acts 15:20 records an important decision being made without any scripture for reference. We follow traditions we believe were handed down from the Apostles. The Catholic Church believes the word of God since writing of the Biblical books is made up of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Your reference to 2 Timothy 3:16 says what all scripture is profitable for but not that it is the only source of such profit. You also quote verses that refer to God as unchanging. With that in mind, the same Holy Spirit who guided the Christian disciples also guides us today in the same way. Many of our traditions do as well have Biblical background.If you have a question about any tradition you may find some good answers in many online references, or maybe your Catholic friend can help you find some answers. I appreciate your concern, and I hope I have helped ease some of your concerns.

    • Keep asking those questions! You are well on your way to finding the true faith just as I did. Go to the source – the Adult Catechism – and “find out what they teach their own people.” You will be amazed. Been there. Done that. Love being Roman Catholic.

  2. John 21:25 – There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
    1 Corinthians 11:2 – I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.
    2 Thessalonians 2:15 – Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.

    The books of the Bible were written over a span of decades in the first century. Until the books were written, all the Christians had was oral traditions handed down from the Apostles. The book of Acts shows the Christian missionaries not bringing with them any scriptures. Acts 15:20 records an important decision being made without any scripture for reference. We follow traditions we believe were handed down from the Apostles. The Catholic Church believes the word of God since writing of the Biblical books is made up of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Your reference to 2 Timothy 3:16 says what all scripture is profitable for but not that it is the only source of such profit. You also quote verses that refer to God as unchanging. With that in mind, the same Holy Spirit who guided the Christian disciples also guides us today in the same way. Many of our traditions do as well have Biblical background.If you have a question about any tradition you may find some good answers in many online references, or maybe your Catholic friend can help you find some answers. I appreciate your concern, and I hope I have helped ease some of your concerns.

  3. Thank you – our understanding of the scriptures has been much improved- Wish I could send this to everyone

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