minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum

Purgatory from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry

The Feast of All Souls follows All Saints day and like All Saints it speak about the mystery of the Church; that it is something bigger than what we understand. The Communion of Saints is a consideration of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church, and places us face to face with the reality that even the universe is too small a place for the church.

In Catholic teaching the church is made up of the those who are in heaven, those who are on earth and also those who are in a state of purification which in the west we have termed as Purgatory. The Church triumphant, militant and suffering, all make up what is known as the Mystical Body of Christ.

As such the Feast of All Souls is about the church suffering. The Feast is also called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. On this day we remember all who have left us and offer prayers for those who are in Purgatory. Further it sets the tone for the rest of the month as November is a month devoted to praying for those in Purgatory. On All Souls day a person can obtain two plenary indulgences; one for visiting a church and one for visiting a cemetery which benefit those in purgatory. Along with these, prayers can be offered, candles lit in remembrance, and sometimes cemeteries will be open and provide candles for honoring the dear departed.

Day of the Dead celebration

In some countries the feast is a much larger affair than in the U.S. For instance, in Mexico the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a national holiday. Held on All Saints and All Souls, there are parades and celebrations, people wear masks of the dead which are brilliantly decorated and will make altars with pictures, and candles to remember a lost loved one.

Other traditions are the making and distributing of Soul Cakes, which originated in Brittain in the Middle Ages. The Cakes, or Cookies were given to children, and would represent prayers for the dead or souls being freed from purgatory.

The 60’s folk group Peter Paul and Mary recorded a song based on an old rhyme for soul cakes, called “A’ Soalin”

Soul, soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him what made us all!
Soul cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, and three for Him who made us all.

Gravesites decorated on All Souls Day

This may help to explain a little of the origins of modern Halloween with it’s masquerade and treat giving. But the bigger picture in all of this is an idea about the church and it’s completeness. The Mystical Body of Christ as an organism, a single body which prays beyond the boundaries of life and death. It speaks of the privilege and responsibility to intercede not only for the welfare of the living but also of the dead, and also explains that heaven will not just be a matter of clouds and harps, but that even the Saint in Heaven will continue to participate in the Body of Christ through prayer.


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3 thoughts on “Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum

  1. Ok Mike I want to really believe this because I know they have to be doing something up there and by revelations they are under the alter with the prayers of the saints offering them up to God. They must stand for us if we ask them to.One question, did they do this before the Lord came to earth to?

    • Mike LaFountain on said:

      There were similar practices in the Jewish faith. Some would visit gravesites and ask deceased relatives to pray for them. There are also prayers offered on anniversaries of the death of Jewish people to remember as we’ll as ask for them to be granted peace and rest in heaven. The catholic faith draws heavily on Judaism in a lot of its practice and even the concept of the communion of saints can find its roots in the Jewish faith.

  2. That is a relief to know that the churches beliefs go back to the first religion other then the fake ones that were there worshiping other gods and many gods.When you go to school for Theology I know you must learn all this so why would anyone want to become another belief if they know the Catholic church was from very old beliefs and part of the Hebrew children’s faith?Other then the Jewish faith we must be the oldest one since Christ and look at all the church fathers we have to be proud of,in fact every religion came from the Catholic church they are only a stick from her.I have allot of catching up to do in my prayer life and with those who have past.The baby gets Baptized today at 2:30 she will be a member of the Catholic church forever:) Isabella age two will become one with us this very day:)
    This is the day that the Lord has made we shall rejoice and be glad in it:)

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