The new episode of the Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Show is here a bit early! For November, I want to share some Catholic traditions for All Souls’ Day, and that comes right at the beginning of the month.
As usual, stay tuned to the end for my book recommendations for the month, courtesy of our sponsor, Ignatius Press. Get 25% off of the recommended books through 12/31/19 at Ignatius.com with the code CAY1119.
Let’s talk about Hallowtide, shall we? All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) make up what is traditionally called Hallowtide. The spooky skeletons and ghosts and death imagery of Halloween celebrations are part of the Catholic tradition of Memento Mori or “Remember you will die,” popular in the Medieval Era, but also found in the Bible.
The idea is that it is important that we remember our own mortality, and that of those we love, so that we can live each day preparing our souls to meet God and face our particular judgement, and helping those around us be ready to face theirs. In our home, alongside the fun of costumes and candy, we use Halloween and the other days of Hallowtide to focus on the three different parts of the Church.
On Halloween, we think of the Church Militant: all of us here on earth, struggling against temptation and our fallen natures, loving God and our neighbor, and hoping, through God’s grace, to one day die a happy death and be welcomed into heaven.
We dress up in spooky and/or funny costumes. We carve jack-o-lanterns. We go trick-or-treating and eat too much candy. We read spooky stories and watch spooky movies and read or recite spooky poems about death.
Get the Momento Mori Poetry booklet here as a printable pdf. Or as part of the October bundle here. Or in the Catholic All October paperback booklet on Amazon.
On All Saint’s Day we focus on the Church Triumphant: all the saints who have died and are in heaven, beholding the face of Our Lord, and inspiring us and interceding for us.
We go to Mass, and, around here, we dress up again for All Saints’ Day, this time as a favorite saint for our homeschool All Saints’ Day Pageant.
On All Souls’ Day (and for the whole month of November) we focus on the Church Suffering: the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who are guaranteed to one day be in heaven, but who are now suffering and need our prayers.
Get the Eternal Rest prayer and the Order for Visiting a Cemetery as a printable pdf here, in the November bundle here, or as part of the Catholic All November paperback on Amazon here.
One of our favorite “weird” Catholic family traditions is visiting a cemetery in November to pray for our beloved dead and all the Holy Souls in purgatory, and to attempt to gain for them the Holy Souls indulgences.
This practice combines two of the most easily misunderstood Catholic teachings: purgatory and indulgences.
We know that after our deaths, we will be judged according to our love for God and our fellow man, and our actions on earth, and end up in heaven or hell. But since the early days of the Church, theologians have recognized a third possible destination for the souls of the dead. Those who loved God, but died with an attachment to sin, must be purified in some was to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. We call that process of purification: purgatory.
The souls in purgatory can no longer pray for themselves, or make sacrifices, or do good works, so they need us, the living, to do these things for them. Especially on the Feast of All Souls, and in the month of November, Catholics pray for and make sacrifices for our beloved dead, and for the other souls in purgatory who need our prayers.
One of the best ways we can do this is by gaining indulgences. An indulgence is a way that the Church uses the authority given by Jesus to bind sins and to loose them. It’s a way to encourage the faithful in prayers, practices, and devotions that will be beneficial to our souls and to the souls in purgatory.
Indulgences can be plenary, which means full, or partial. A plenary indulgence will release us, or a soul in purgatory, from the temporal punishment due to sins.
Our family’s favorite plenary indulgences to obtain each year are the All Souls’ Indulgences. Every year, from November 1-8, we can obtain a plenary indulgence each day (subject to the usual conditions), applicable only to the holy souls in purgatory, and subject to the usual conditions, for praying for the Holy Souls in a cemetery. You can use any prayers, but our favorites are the Eternal Rest Prayer, or if we have more time, the Order for Visiting a Cemetery.
It’s truly one of the greatest acts of Christian charity a person can do, plus it’s pretty fun to hang out in cemeteries looking for forgotten gravestones and praying for the soul of someone who might not have anyone else in the whole world to pray for him!
So that’s it! A very Catholic Hallowtide is a fun and spooky and meaningful way to teach our kids about important Catholic Truths. (And the mom tax on candy, of course. Gotta learn that one young.)
Further reading for All Souls’ Day:
Further reading for All Saints’ Day:
Further reading for Halloween: