Observing All Souls

all-souls-from-swedenOver the years, different parishes I’ve served have observed All Souls Day in different ways. Mass. The Hours. Social gatherings. One of the more significant memories I have was when I was on retreat at a Benedictine monastery one second day of November. The procession to the cemetery was particularly moving.

Not all parishes have a Benedictine strain in their celebration of liturgy, but many communities are doing good work, not just ora et labora. I would say the observance has increased somewhat in recent years, post-conciliar optimism winning out against pragmatism and the American fear of death.

In my new parish, daily Mass was moved from the chapel to the church. Not as many people celebrated Mass as on the holy day, but it was still a respectable assembly. One way out of the hand-wringing over holy days is to simply do non-Sunday celebrations very well, whether they be obligatory or not.

Any observances or observations to share?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Observing All Souls

  1. Liam says:

    Churches near my home don’t offer additional Masses for All Souls (though it’s one of the rare days where the Church assumes multiple Masses) so it’s a no-go for me since daily parish Masses are all timed for mid-morning to occur right before funerals.

    That said, I will say that the offering of musical Requiems at parishes during the month of November – not only in concert form but also within the context of the actual Mass – has moved from the remote outside fringe to being merely uncommon, perhaps that’s the best way to put it – I am no longer surprised to see it (I would have been 10 years ago). And I believe this builds on a very gradual, evolving recovery of Catholic sensibilities on prayers for the dead in the past generation; whereas in the 1970s and 1980s one might more frequently encounter Catholics (including clergy) who had Serious Issues with customary Catholic practice*, the Plague (HIV/AIDS) Years (and the increase incidence in absolute terms of long-term debilitating illness before death, as with degenerative disease) and increasing presence of Latino Catholics had the effect of pushing back on that.

    * At the risk of provoking anyone who shares those issues – not my intention – I will mention as a reminder that forming a habit of intending to offer indulgences for departed souls in connection with one’s daily prayer offerings (you need to intend at least generally to gain them) is a spiritual work of mercy – no less than any other work of mercy – and is also contributes to forming habits of solidarity… (These customary Catholic practices ought not to be allowed to be ghettoized as exclusively traditionalist.)

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