All Souls Day celebration has long and storied history

October 31, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

In Vietnam, Rev. Linh Nguyen and his family celebrated All Souls Day, which is usually on Nov. 2, by cleaning the family graves.

Creoles, who live primarily in south Louisiana, celebrate the day by cleaning graves and attending church services in graveyards.

Mexican Roman Catholic's celebration is called, Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead. For the feast, families prepare a picnic of their deceased's favorite foods and hold vigils in graveyards.

Catholics all over the world use All Soul's Day - Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed - to remember their own mortality and pray that their loved ones join Christ in heaven after their death.

Linh, who is pastor at SS. Peter and Paul Church, explained that most people must go through purgation or a period of trial before they go to heaven. Once a person dies, no one comes back to confirm that the person went to heaven, so the living pray that the person will join Christ in everlasting life, Linh said.


At SS. Peter and Paul Church the celebration of All Souls Day has always included a procession of candles. During the 11:15 a.m. Mass Sunday there will be a procession of candles that remember the dead. On white candles, people will write the names of their deceased. The names of those that died within the last year will be listed on blue candles.

This year parishioners will also observe the feast throughout the entire month of November with a book of the dead. A blue book with gold embossing will be placed in the sanctuary, and parishioners will sign the names of their deceased loved ones inside.

The day before All Souls Day Catholics celebrate All Saints Day or Solemnity of All Saints. On this day, they celebrate the saints, who have already made their way to heaven.

As part of Linh's studies for his masters of liturgical study, he wrote a paper on the history of All Saints Day. He traced its origins to the early centuries when Christians visited the tomb of martyrs on the anniversaries of their deaths.

By the end of the fifth century, when Christians no longer faced persecution, saints were expanded from just martyrs to confessors, virgins and holy women and men.

People who suffer prison or exile for their faithfulness to Christ, but aren't put to death are called confessors. Some saints are martyrs of popular devotion, they denied worldly goods to follow Christ.

As the numbers of saints grew and people voiced their desire to honor their lives, the Feast of All Saints was created. The day was celebrated differed from country-to-country, but by the 12th century the church had settled on Nov. 1.

On this day Catholics seek the fellowship and help of the saints to deepen their relationship with Christ.

Both days are important in the church and are a time to reflect on mortality, Linh said.

Central Kentucky News Articles