Remembering the Dead

11-12-2023Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

You may have noticed the large banner in the sanctuary with the image of St. Bernadette and a list of our parishioners who have died this past year. We also have the Book of Remembrance where you are welcome to write the names of your loved ones that you would like to be remembered at Holy Mass. What you may not know is why we remember the dead in November.

Traditionally, November is the month where the Catholic Church remembers all those who have died. We celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1st. This is a very special day in the Church calendar where we honor all Saints. The Catholic Church celebrates All Souls Day on November 2nd. This day is dedicated to praying for those who have died.

October 31st is of course Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve which is linked to the ‘celebration’ and remembrance of the Saints. This tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain , more than 2000 years ago, where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. It marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death.

In the sixth century Pope Boniface IV proclaimed May 13th as the Feast of All Holy Martyrs. In 835 Pope Gregory IV changed the date and name to November 1st and Feast of All Saints. The date was changed to coincide with the end of the Fall season. The name was changed due to the change in custom of who was honored as a Saint. Up until this time, only martyrs were given that title. So, November 1st was designated as the time to honor (hallow) the Saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain and the evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, “hallowed evening”, and later Halloween.

The Feast of All Souls, now called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (because it is not a feast in the liturgical sense) is thought to have its origins with St. Odilo of Cluny, who, in 948 A.D. instituted a commemoration of the faithful departed in his monastery. In the Benedictine liturgical books, still today, an Antiphon commemorates this fact on the memorial of the Abbots of Cluny on May 11th.

In 1003, Pope Sylvester approved the practice and moved the date to November 2nd, the day after the Feast of All Saints. Finally, in the fourteenth century, this day of commemoration was placed in the official books of the Western (Latin) Church and remains there today. Catholic Churches across the world, usually have a Book of Remembrance that is place in a prominent place within the Church itself, so that the names in that, are especially ‘remembered’ and prayed for during this month. Praying for the souls in Purgatory is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. These souls long for God but they need to be purified of their sins before they can enter Heaven.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

God Bless,

Fr. Don Kline, V.F.