All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, An Explanation

All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. Holy Days of Obligation are feast days on which Catholics are required to attend Mass (unless they are sick or have another valid reason for not attending) and to avoid, to the extent that they are able, all servile work. At OLR we will have three Masses on this day: 10:00 a.m. (which will also be the school Mass); 12 noon; and 7:00 p.m. All of the Masses will be in the upper church.

As a special feature of the All Saints’ Day celebration, a number of first class relics will be displayed around the church for veneration by the faithful during the Mass while the Litany of the Saints is sung. Some of the saints whose first class relics will be present are: St Stephen the proto-martyr, Pope St Gregory the Great, St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Maria Goretti, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St Therese of Lisieux, St Theresa of Avila, St Catherine Laboure, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, St John Neumann, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Benedict, St. Padre Pio and others.

A first class relic is a particle from the saint’s mortal remains. A second class relic is a fragment of something the saint owned or used regularly, or an object that was in close contact with them during their life. A third class relic is any object, most often a piece of cloth, that has been touched to a first class relic

The tradition of venerating relics is very ancient in the Church. The remains of the holy martyrs would be gathered up and treated with great reverence. Their above ground tombs would often be used as an altar, so the tradition of placing a relic within a permanent altar became widespread and eventually mandatory.

“This beautiful ancient tradition reminds us that the saints are real, historical figures. They are ordinary people made extraordinary by God’s grace. In venerating the saints, we pay our respects to the action of God’s grace in their lives and pray that He might also bring us one day to perfection in Christ.”

All Souls’ Day

All Souls’ Day provides the opportunity to gain indulgences for our departed loved ones and for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory. What is an indulgence? “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven (in the Sacrament of Confession), which the

faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471).

From the Handbook of Indulgences:

A plenary (full) indulgence, which is applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the Christian faithful who devoutly visit a church or an oratory on All Souls’ Day. The requirements for obtaining a Plenary Indulgence are:

  • Visit a church and pray for the souls in Purgatory while in the state of grace
  • Say the Our Father and the Creed during the visit to the church (this is accomplished in the liturgy if your visit is during Mass; outside of Mass, offer these on your own)
  • Pray for the Pope’s intentions (an Our Father, or Hail Mary, or any other appropriate prayer is sufficient)
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (on the day itself or soon thereafter)
  • Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls’ Day, either before or after
  • For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary). It is sufficient that the Christian makes an act of the will to love God above all things and to despise all sin.

In addition, you can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between 1 November and 8 November. The columbarium in the lower church is considered a cemetery in meeting this qualification. During these days the lower church will be open during school hours so that you can visit. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory. A partial indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, can be obtained whenever saying the “Eternal rest” prayer: “Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”