All Saints Day and All Souls Day

I thought I would begin this week’s column with some information about upcoming events. In recent years, our Archdiocese has organized a “Clergy Study Day” for deacons and priests in the fall and the spring. The autumn Clergy Study Day will be right here at St. Peter’s this coming Wednesday. Besides the study topic we will have much to discuss, given the difficult news stories of the last month or so. If you see a lot of cars and a lot of priests making their way toward Heritage Center on your way to morning Mass on Wednesday, you will know why! We can all be honored that our parish is so often used by departments of the Archdiocese—most frequently the Office of Catholic Schools—for meetings large and small. Visitors always think our buildings and the setting are beautiful! And yes, we do receive some rental income from such events, even if it is not a tremendously large amount of money.

Perhaps it is news to you that our Monday-through-Friday 9:00 morning Mass in the Historic Church draws not only our registered members, but also people from outside the parish. Depending on the season, attendance can be as low as 40 and as high as 100. Most of the time we have 60 to 80 people at Mass on weekdays. After Mass on the last Thursday of each month we have a celebration in Heritage Center for all who have a birthday that month, and even visitors are invited to come. This month, that happens to be October 31. Everyone knows that day is Halloween. What is now a purely secular holiday has risen to prominence because it falls in a long stretch of weeks between the end of summer and Thanksgiving. It gives a lot of people an excuse to have fun and it offends almost nobody–making it possible to observe it in homes, schools, and offices. Only a few decades ago Halloween was not a terribly big day. Today, it would be difficult to forget about it. But some people do forget that the origins of Halloween are religious. Its name comes from “All Hallows’ Eve,” meaning the Eve of All Saints.  Yes, the next day, November 1, is All Saints Day.  People used to wear masks on the night of October 31 precisely because of the holiness of the following day. From as long ago as the 4th century Christians have observed a celebration in honor of the saints, beginning with the martyrs but developing into a feast of all of the saints.  In the 800s its celebration was fixed on November 1 to draw attention away from the Celtic pagan feast of the Druids in Ireland. That is still our day to ask for the prayers of the vast number of souls whose names we do not know who are in heaven.

All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation. This year it will be a Friday, and there will be three Masses at St. Peter’s. I certainly recognize that people are adding Mass to a day that is already quite full, and so Mass will be a little shorter than on a Sunday. The 7:00 AM Mass in the Historic Church is meant to be helpful for people on their way to work: they will be on their way at 7:40. The 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM Masses are in the Main Church. Some of you might consider another option: at Faithful Shepherd School the Mass will be at 8:15 AM on Thursday this week (instead of on Wednesday as it is most weeks), so parents and grandparents might wish to join the children for All Saints Day Mass.

Saturday, November 2 will be the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, or All Souls Day. I hope if you are free you will consider coming to Mass at 10:00 AM, when we pray for all of those who are being purified from sin before entering the presence of God. We will pray especially for all members of our parish who have died in the past year. You might wish to know that a plenary indulgence (full remission of temporal punishment due to sin) applicable only to the souls in purgatory is granted to those who visit a church on All Souls Day and who pray the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed in addition to the usual requirements (sacramental confession, holy Communion, and prayer for the Pope’s intentions). If you come to 5:00 Mass that day, please know that it will be a Sunday Mass, not the observance of All Souls Day. But the indulgence would still be granted if you came to church at that hour, of course.

The entire month of November is a special time to pray for the dead, and the Church encourages this by offering a plenary indulgence (also applicable only to the souls in purgatory) to those who devoutly visit a cemetery from November 1 through November 8 and pray for the dead. (It is a plenary indulgence on the first eight days of November and it would be a partial indulgence at other times.) Since we have our parish cemetery just a few hundred yards away, I encourage you to go up there on the hill and spend just a few minutes in that beautiful place praying for the dead.

After all of the activity at the end of this coming week, the first full week of November should begin with great calm. But on Wednesday, November 6 I will travel with my parents to Baltimore to see some relatives and their new baby. We also plan to take the train to New York City one of the days to spend a few hours visiting the National September 11 Memorial. I will be gone for three nights, but I will be back for the Sunday Masses on November 9 and 10.


Leave a Reply