1 November: Solemnity of All Saints. Today, the Church celebrates ALL the saints, canonized or beatified, plus the multitude in heaven enjoying the beatific vision that are only known to God. This history of this feast goes back to when the Church of Antioch kept a commemoration of all holy martyrs on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Saint John Chrysostom delivered annual sermons on this day entitled “Praise of All the Holy Martyrs of the Entire World.” In the centuries that followed, the feast spread through the Eastern Church and, by the 7th century, was as a widespread public holyday. In the West, the Feast of “All Holy Martyrs” was introduced when Pope Boniface IV was given the ancient Roman temple of the Pantheon and dedicated it as a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. The dedication date was May 13, and on this date the feast was then annually held in Rome. 200 years later, Pope Gregory IV transferred the celebration to November 1, mainly so that the many pilgrims who came to Rome for the “Feast of the Pantheon” could be fed more easily after the harvest than in the spring. Meanwhile, the practice had spread of including in this memorial not only all martyrs but all the other saints as well. Finally, Pope Sixtus IV established it as a holyday of obligation for the entire Latin Church, giving it a liturgical vigil and octave. The purpose of the feast is twofold. As the prayer of the Mass states, “the merits of all the saints are venerated in common by this one celebration,” because a very large number of martyrs and other saints could not be accorded the honor of a special festival since the days of the year would not suffice for all these individual celebrations. The second purpose was given by Pope Urban IV: Any negligence, omission, and irreverence committed in the celebration of the saints’ feasts throughout the year is to be atoned for by the faithful, and thus due honor may still be offered to these saints. This Feast of All Saints should inspire us with tremendous hope. As followers of Christ, we all have this universal call to holiness. “DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BE SAINTS. Follow Jesus Christ who is the source of freedom and light. Be open to the Lord so that He may lighten all your ways.” – Pope St. John Paul II
Ideas for celebrating this Solemnity at home:
- Visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead during the Octave of All Saints’ (November 1-8) will gain a plenary indulgence that can be applied only to souls in Purgatory. Click here for requirements. Tomorrow is the Feast of All Souls: set up pictures of deceased loved ones on your home altar and pray for them. You can see how to do that here.
- Have a special meal and if you have young children, have them dress up like saints. Costume ideas at this link! Decorate your table with candles, holy cards, medals, and saint statues.
- Make (or buy!) donuts: a donut has a holein the middle of an eternal circle that could remind us of our call to holiness. They also look like little “halos” – a perfect feast day treat!
- Enjoy saint-themed snacks today: tons of ideas here at Catholic Icing.
- Craft idea: make a paper doll chain of saints!
- Make All Saints’ Day symbolic goody bagsto hand out to friends, family, neighbors: Click Here for a recipe for symbolic Saint ‘trail mix’ and labels that explain each edible Saint symbol.
- Make a home altar: click here for ideas.
- Read a saint’s story- or two! Stories of the Saints is a beautiful book to read with children. Click here for more recommendations. Or, watch a movie about the life of a saint. Many are available for free on FORMED using your parishioner account!
- Pray the Litany of the Saints— you could make it really special by chanting it and you could read an explanation of this litany, which is considered the model of all other litanies.
- Go to mass on this Holy Day of Obligation and say a rosary together as a family