This article was written by Taryn Oesch DeLong in a collaboration effort with Jessica Connolly (Telos Design). Taryn is a wife and mother in Raleigh, NC and writer at Everyday Roses. and the managing editor of Catholic Women in Business. Taryn is also a volunteer with the pro-life ministry in her parish and plays the piano and the flute. Her favorite saints are Sts. Joseph, Zélie, Thérèse, and Teresa of Calcutta.
Immediately following Halloween, Catholics celebrate two feast days that sound very similar: All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. All Saints’ Day is a holy day of obligation (except in years, like this one, when it falls on a Saturday or Monday), but All Souls’ Day is not.
All Saints’ Day is more than an opportunity to dress up like your favorite saint. And, while All Souls’ Day isn’t a holy day of obligation, it’s still an important day. What are these feast days? What’s the difference, and why are they separate days? Why—and—how should we celebrate them?
Here’s your guide to these two important fall days.
All Saints’ Day: Celebrating Every Soul in Heaven
To understand All Saints’ Day, we first must understand what a saint is. The Catholic Church teaches that every soul in heaven is a saint; it’s just some, who can be held up as examples of how to live a Christian life, who are canonized and called “Saint” by the Church. Because not every saint is known and celebrated with a feast day, the Church has All Saints’ Day, which recognizes every person who has died and gone to heaven. As Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin writes, “If your departed grandmother is in heaven, even though she’s never been canonized, on All Saints Day the Catholic Church commemorates her and the work God did in her life. She, too, has a place in the liturgical calendar, alongside the more famous saints.”
All Souls’ Day: Praying for the Dead
All Souls’ Day is a bit different. It’s not to celebrate the souls in heaven but, rather, to pray for the souls on their way to heaven—the souls in purgatory. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect” (1030-1031). The Church teaches that we, here on earth, can pray for the souls in purgatory to help them reach heaven. We can do so any day of the year, but All Souls’ Day is set aside as a particular day to remember our departed loved ones and pray for them.
Celebrating the Feast Days
How to celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day? While neither is a holy day of obligation this year, going to Mass anyway is a great way to honor the saints in heaven. After all, as Pope St. John Paul II said, each Mass is “a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy” that the saints experience.
Many families with children, especially children in Catholic schools, celebrate All Saints’ Day by dressing up as saints. What a great alternative (or addition) to dressing up on Halloween! There are also lots of saint crafts and coloring sheets available online for free or at low cost and plenty of books about saints for children and adults. Take this opportunity to learn about a saint who’s new to you!
The best way you can celebrate All Souls’ Day is by praying for the dead—both your own loved ones who have died and, equally importantly, for souls who have died who don’t have anyone to pray for them. The “Eternal Rest” prayer is a short prayer you can use to pray for all of the faithful departed. At the end of the Year of St. Joseph, you might also pray for the intercession of this patron saint of the dying for everyone at the end of his or her life.
For great products that can support your celebration of All Saints’ Day, check out these Catholics Online vendors and products:
Patron saint necklaces from Telos Art Shop
Super Saints cards from Arma Dei
Rosaries from Refuge Rosaries, Della Madonna Rosaries, Gail’s Designs, Rosaries by Carina, Our Lady’s Armory, No Heart Untouched (which sells unique wall rosaries), Gifts by Beth, Easter Pup Creations, Spirit Within Studios, Relics by Rose (which sells rosary bracelets), and Small Things Great Love
Plus, this free guide to praying the rosary in English and Latin from Mary With You
Saint quilt pattern from Faith and Fabric
Saint craft kits from Equipping Catholic Families
Mini All Saints Day seed packet from Seeds for Sainthood (includes a November prayer journal, prayer tracker, litany of saints, and two stickers)
Want to read more about Saints? Read Taryn DeLong’s review of Radical Saints!
Want to shop Saint gifts? Go to Telos Art Shop!