All Souls Day has long and important history in the faith

By Malie Hudson     11/2/2017

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, or more commonly known as All Souls Day, is one of the most important dates on the liturgical calendar for Catholics.  

The holy day was originally celebrated after Pentecost. In the 6th century, the Benedictine order would solemnly commemorate the souls of its deceased members. Other historical reports indicate that St. Isidore in Spain held a similar celebration on the second Sunday before Lent while an Abbot in Germany also held a special ceremony on October 1. Between 998 and 1030, St. Odilo, the Abbot of Cluny, decreed that all Cluniac monasteries offer special prayers for all the souls in purgatory on November 2, the day after All Saints. The Benedictines and Carthusians followed suit and over time the tradition spread throughout the Church.  

“(On All Souls Day) the Church calls to mind the unfailing mercy of God, who in Christ, wills that all people be saved and experience eternal communion with Him and all the holy ones,” explains Monsignor Arthur Holquin, episcopal vicar for Divine Worship at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano. “Yet, in her wisdom, the Church acknowledges that for some, at the time of death, there may remain an incomplete or ‘imperfect’ union with God due to one’s unwillingness due to sin, to fully surrender to God’s transforming grace. While the totality of one’s life might reflect a fundamental orientation toward doing God’s will and living out the commandments, nevertheless, there remains the need for ongoing ‘purification’ before one is ready to see God ‘face to face.’ The Church, in her theology, refers to this period of ‘purification’ as purgatory.”  

In addition to remembering departed loved ones on All Souls Day, Catholics have the extraordinary opportunity to gain plenary indulgences for the souls in purgatory.  

“A plenary indulgence is the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. A partial indulgence is a partial reduction in the time that one would spend in purgatory due to the temporal punishment for the sins that he or she committed,” explained Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk, judicial vicar with the Office of Canonical Services at the Diocese.  

According to the Enchiridion of Indulgences, there are two opportunities available during this time. The first is to visit a cemetery each day from November 1 to 8 and pray for a departed loved one. During other times of the year, Catholics can only gain a partial indulgence. The second opportunity for a plenary indulgence is to visit a church or public oratory on All Souls Day and pray one Our Father and the Creed. Both opportunities can only be applied to the dead and limited to one soul each day.  

The following requisites are required to receive the plenary indulgence during those times: 


– Sacramental confession 

– Eucharistic communion 

– Prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father

– Have no attachment to sin 


“The Enchiridion has a number of ways that people can gain indulgences for themselves or loved ones in purgatory, with that intention and meeting the requirements,” said Monsignor Doktorczyk. 

Alma Ochoa, associate director of Administration of Cemeteries at the Diocese, says that there will be an All Souls Day Mass on Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. at each of the Catholic cemeteries in the Diocese – Ascension in Lake Forest, Good Shepherd in Huntington Beach and Holy Sepulcher in Orange. Bishop Kevin Vann will celebrate Mass at Holy Sepulcher.  

Although celebrated one day before All Souls, All Saints Day has a fundamental connection with the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.  

“All Saints Day is a vivid reminder that we are not saved alone, nor is our eternal destiny solely a ‘me and Jesus’ experience,” explained Monsignor Holquin. “We are saved as a people – the People of God who are the living Body of Christ, and our eternal destiny is intimately connected with the family of believers whom we call ‘the communion of saints.’ All Saints Day calls to mind all those who have gone before us in faith, who have courageously ‘fought the good fight’ and have been open to the transforming grace of Christ that overpowers the darkness of sin, and are now one with the Lord and all the Holy ones in heaven. It is the day that we not only remember all those who have heroically lived the integrity of faith and are publicly venerated in the liturgical calendar, but also those nameless individuals, down through the centuries, whose lives radiated the goodness of Christ and are now exemplars for the living.”