All Souls Day is the official day set aside by the Church to commemorate and pray for the dead.
Of course, Catholics are always–or should be always–praying for the dead, no matter what day it is. As I mentioned in my earlier post about praying for the dead, since we believe that a good majority of those who die don’t go straight to Heaven, we pray for them, so their sufferings in Purgatory might be shortened.
Recently, when we were in Portugal filming for our upcoming series, The Faithful Traveler in Portugal, we encountered something I have encountered a few times whilst in Europe–the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were at the huge and impressive Monastery of Batalha, when we were told that we had to hurry if we wanted to film the changing of the guard. Hurry we did, and we were able to capture an impressive sight, honoring the tomb that holds the bodies of two unknown soldiers, one who died in Flanders and another who died in Africa. I’m going to save our footage for the series, but here is some impressive footage I found online, shot from a completely different angle than we filmed it:
It’s a beautifully choreographed and performed ritual that honors those who died for their country, despite the fact that their names are lost to history.
Many countries have tombs to unknown soldiers. This website provides a lovely series of images of many of them. Here in the US, we have four:
- the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery where a changing of the Guard ceremony also takes place,
- the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier in Philadelphia,
- the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier in Mississippi, and
- the Civil War Unknowns Monument, also at Arlington Cemetery.
Honoring these soldiers who died in the defense of their country is a microcosmic way of looking at the Feast of All Souls, during which when we pray for ALL souls who have died in the midst of the spiritual battle we face every day here on Earth. Today, we pray for everyone who has died–courageous and not so courageous, soldiers for the country and soldiers for Christ, brave and honorable, weak and sinful. We pray for them all, trusting in God’s justice and hoping in His mercy.
For the past few years, during the month of November, I read Stories About Purgatory and What They Reveal: 30 Days for the Holy Souls. It provides wonderful insight into the idea of praying for the Holy Souls, and it reminds me to do everything I can to offer up sacrifices on their behalf. Here is a little snippet from yesterday’s reading:
All Saints–All Souls! It was well done to place thus close together these two beautiful solemnities. There is a fitness, too, in this season of the fall of the leaf for such a commemoration of the departed. The flowers and green leaves of May, the yellow harvests and the warm glow of August, would be out of place upon All Souls’ Day. Better to sing this Universal Requiem when Nature herself has laid aside the garments of her gladness, when the warm blood of youth is no longer coursing through the earth’s veins, when the very sunshine seems chill and sad, and the wind through the naked branches is a dirge. But at whatever period they come, All Saints Day [November 1] and All Souls Day [November 2] should come together. And they come together, though one might be tempted, in all reverence, to wish that the order of their coming were reversed. If the commemoration of All Souls came first, we might hope that the suffrages of the Church Militant on that day, joined with the prayers of the Church Triumphant, might avail must to the relief of the Suffering Church; might procure the discharge of many, perhaps, among the patient victims detained in that prison house of mercy, and so increase the hosts of those honored in the Festival of All Saints.
Don’t forget to get your indulgences today!
Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day (2 Nov)
- Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory
- Say one “Our Father” and the “Apostles Creed” in the visit to the church
- Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month)
- Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass)
- Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day
- For a plenary indulgence be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary, “full”).
You can acquire one plenary indulgence a day.
How hard can that be?
Happy All Souls Day!