Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls Day

All Souls Day brings to an end our annual three-day festival of the communio sanctorum that ushers in the month during which we remember our beloved dead. Traditionally, this day is essentially liturgical Memorial Day. On 2 November we commemorate our faithful departed and ask God to have mercy on them and all who have gone before us. The custom of setting apart a day to intercede for certain of the faithful departed dates to the end of the tenth century and began at the Benedictine monastery of Cluny.

Given the influence of Cluny, this custom first spread to other Benedictine communities associated with Cluny. Before long commemorating the faithful departed on this date was practiced in several dioceses in France before spreading throughout the Western Church. It was quite late coming to Rome, where it was accepted in the fourteenth century. In time, with All Saints day being established on 1 November in AD 835 and the celebration of All Souls on 2 November, the entire month of November came was dedicated to remembering the dead, at least in the Western Catholic Church.

There exists today in many Catholic parishes the practice of placing a list of names of those to be remembered close to the altar. This is a lovely custom we carry on at The Cathedral of the Madeleine, the parish in which I serve.

Let us pray for our faithful departed, our beloved dead

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