In just a few short days, the Catholic Church will enter into a holy trifecta of days:
- All Hallows’ Eve (October 31)
- All Saints’ Day (November 1)
- All Souls’ Day (November 2)
All Saints’ Day and All Souls ‘Day are the obvious holy days. But what about All Hallows’ Eve (or Halloween)? How does it fit into this trifecta?
The Communion of Saints
It helps to consider that, together, these three consecutive days illustrate the full Communion of Saints: the Church Triumphant, Suffering, and Militant.
We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church … // Catechism of the Catholic Church 962
Each day within this upcoming trifecta of holy days emphasizes this reality.
All Hallows’ Eve
This day looks to the Church Militant, those faithful Catholics living on earth and striving for Heaven. We have a unique role to play in the spiritual battle against sin and evil in the world.
All Saints’ Day
The Solemnity of All Saints’ celebrates the Church Triumphant, the saints (canonized and uncanonized) in Heaven. They fought the earthly battle against “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” and with God’s grace, they won.
The Church celebrates all its holy ones on a feast with the rank of ‘solemnity’ and rightfully so. These after all, are the heroes and heroines of humanity. // Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
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All Souls’ Day
On All Souls’ Day and throughout the month of November, we remember the Church Suffering. We pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, that they may enter Heaven soon.
Collectively, this trifecta of fall holy days offers us a meditation on life, death, and resurrection. And this also invites us to embrace our Catholic heritage by incorporating tradition, prayer, and observance into our daily rhythm of liturgical living.
Autumn Holy Days Invite Contemplation
Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day arrive at the perfect time of year. They correlate beautifully with the autumn season, when nature grows barren, withers, and dies. The very landscape outside our windows inspires meditation. We remember that our earthly life is temporary, and we ponder where we want to be eternally.
This concept of memento mori (or remembering your death) has a long tradition in Catholicism. The Saints encourage the importance of meditating on the unavoidable reality of death so we may live better on earth. In a homily dating back to the 1600s, Fr. Nathaniel Bacon encourages the Faithful to “examine what would become of you, were you to die this very day.”
This contemplation is not meant to be morbid. Rather, it is to renew our passion for truly living the life of the Church Militant, so one day we may be among the Church Triumphant.
Embracing Our Catholic Heritage
Our meditation on life and death leads us to truly living out these liturgical days through tradition, prayer, and observance. With authentic joy, we embrace our Catholic heritage and the meaningful depth it brings to our lives.
All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween)
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. // Wisdom 3:1
Halloween comes from the English, where saints and holy people are called “hallowed.” In the Our Father, we pray, “hallowed be Thy name,” which proclaims God’s name as holy. While All Hallows’ Eve is not on the liturgical calendar, it is the vigil of All Saints’ Day, and vigil days are often reserved for fasting and preparation.
Because the demonic is an aspect of secular Halloween, it is important to acknowledge the sinful and evil reality of this world. As the Church Militant, we are called to fight in the battle against evil, sin, and anything that does not proclaim Christ as King.
Halloween is a good day to begin incorporating the Prayer to St. Michael into our prayer routine. This can easily be added to the end of the Rosary, at bedtime, or at any time you need this holy warrior’s intercession.
- Begin with prayer, asking the Lord to keep this day hallowed.
- Carve and light jack-o-lanterns to remember that we are children of light, not darkness (Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5).
- Encourage children to dress up as Saints or something in God’s creation when they go trick-or-treating.
- Host a bonfire; serve s’mores and hot apple cider.
All Saints’ Day
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. // Matthew 5:8-9
All Saints’ Day dates back to 609, as the Feast of All Martyrs, originally observed on May 13. In 840, the feast changed to All Saints’, and in 844, Pope Gregory IV transferred the feast to November 1. All Saints’ Day became a Holy Day of Obligation in 1484.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the main prayer on the Solemnity of All Saints. In addition, there are additional ways to weave prayer into this day:
- Create and pray a personal (or family) litany of Saints.
- Sing (or listen to) traditional hymns, such as Holy God, We Praise Thy Name and For All the Saints.
- Read excerpts from the lives of your favorite Saints.
- Bake a special dessert.
- Give your children (or friends) medals of their patron Saints. Have them blessed by a priest beforehand.
All Souls’ Day
“It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” // 2 Maccabees 12:46
The Catholic Church acknowledges the importance of praying for the dead. It is recommended in Scripture and is mainly expressed in the offering of Mass for the repose of souls. We believe that when they enter Heaven, they will remember those who prayed for them and in turn pray for us.
The primary prayer of All Souls’ Day is Mass on behalf of the faithful departed. In addition, we can gain indulgences for the Poor Souls in Purgatory each day from November 1-8 by visiting a cemetery.
Another beautiful prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is the Eternal Rest prayer. This prayer also gains a partial indulgence and can be prayed throughout the year, especially at the end of the Rosary or family meals.
- Visit the grave sites of deceased loved ones.
- Bring gardening supplies to spruce up the area around the grave.
- Bring flowers.
- Send a card of sympathy and encouragement to someone in mourning.
The autumn trifecta of holy days—All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day—invites us to bring our faith into the world, and to be counter cultural, the salt and light Jesus calls us to be (Matthew 5:13-16). These days not only bring us deeper into Catholic tradition, they also draw us into meditation and prayer.
How do you celebrate this trifecta of holy days?
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