Catholic Activity: All Souls' Day: Soulmas
On November 2 we remember our dead especially by praying for them. As Catholics we have the consolation of the resurrection of the body at the Last Judgment, with our souls reuniting with our mortal body. Because of this belief, many Christians tend the graves of their dead. The author describes some British customs of All Souls' Day, and some suggestions on how we can pray and honor our deceased loved ones.
Fire has always been a symbol of immortality, and the immortality of the soul was symbolized by lighting fires during the night of All Souls; perhaps the simpler people thought that their little furze fires dotted over the hillsides would show the way to souls who were that day making their journey from purgatory to heaven! Long after the Catholic faith had been cast out of this country, relics remained at Soulmass of the once universal praying for the dead, though, as was inevitable, these became empty and corrupt. Even in the 19th century girls still went "souling" from door to door; people baked and ate soul cakes, people, who would have abhorred the idea that the dead can be helped by prayers, would say on this day:
A soul cake, a soul cake, God have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake.A soul cake was a sort of oat cake, which, in Catholic times was baked specially as a gift for poor and needy people, and these people on receiving it would pray for the dead belonging to those who gave it.
All Souls' day could be made the feast day of the dead members of any family. One could pray in general for all the souls in purgatory, but surely the members of the family have first claim. Where there are children in a family one can make a soul cake for each one and ask each to undertake to pray particularly for one dead member of the family.
When the dead are buried not too far away an annual expedition could be made to the churchyard with flowers, or to tidy and clear their graves. One has only to walk through any churchyard to wish that All Souls' day could be celebrated in such a way by the whole country! In this way, starting from a quite unambitious level, children could be taught to take a real interest in the welfare of the dead members of their family and could come to have a real devotion to the souls in Purgatory.
Activity Source: Candle is Lighted, A by P. Stewart Craig, The Grail, Field End House, Eastcote, Middlesex, 1945