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Ordinary Time: November 2nd

The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls)


November 02, 2011 (Readings on USCCB website)


Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us. As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you raised from the dead, strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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Old Calendar: Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost ; Other Titles: All Souls Day

"On this day is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city." — Roman Martyrology

Every priest is permitted to say three Masses on this day and it would be a good practice for the laity to attend three Masses and offer them for the Poor Souls.

All Souls Indulgences
An indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the first to the eighth of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed [November 2 {as well as on the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints' Day}] piously visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father. The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the visit; it is, however, fitting that communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day as the visit.

The condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary. A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once in the course of the day.

All Souls Day
The Church, after rejoicing yesterday with those of her children who have entered the glory of heaven, today prays for all those who, in the purifying suffering of purgatory await the day when they will be joined to the company of saints. At no place in the liturgy is stated in more striking fashion the mysterious union between the Church triumphant, the Church militant and the Church suffering; at no time is there accomplished in clearer fashion the twofold duty of charity and justice deriving for every Christian from the fact of his incorporation in the mystical Body of Christ. By virtue of the consoling doctrine of the communion of saints the merits and prayers of each one are able to help all; and the Church is able to join her prayer with that of the saints in heaven and supply what is wanting to the souls in purgatory by means of the Mass, indulgences and the alms and sacrifices of her children.

The celebration of Mass, the sacrifice of Calvary continued on our altars, has ever been for the Church the principal means of fulfilling towards the dead the great commandment of charity. Masses for the dead are found in the fifth century. But it was St. Odilo, fourth abbot of Cluny, who was responsible for the institution of the general commemoration of all the faithful departed; he instituted it and fixed its celebration on November 2, the day after All Saints. The practice spread to the rest of Christendom.

Daily in a special Memento in the Canon of the Mass, at which the priest remembers all those who have fallen asleep in the Lord, the priest implores God to grant them a place of happiness, light and peace. Thus there is no Mass in which the Church does not pray for the faithful departed; but today her thoughts are directed towards them in a particular fashion, with the maternal preoccupation of leaving no soul in purgatory without spiritual aid and of grouping them all together in her intercession. By a privilege that Benedict XV's decree has extended to the whole world every priest can today celebrate three Masses; for the liberation of the souls in purgatory the Church multiplies the offering of the sacrifice of Christ, from which she draws forever on behalf of all her children, infinite fruits of redemption.

Things to Do:

  • Do pious practices to help the Poor Souls: attend three Masses for the Poor Souls on this day; remember your family and friends who are deceased and make an extra sacrifice for them; pray the rosary for the most forgotten soul in purgatory.

  • The faithful who visit a cemetery to pray for the faithful departed, saying the Lord's Prayer and the Creed (even if only mentally), may gain a plenary indulgence once only under the usual conditions: sacramental confession (eight days before or after the act), Eucharistic Communion on that day, and prayer for the Pope's intentions (usually one Our Father and Hail Mary as minimum). Each day between November 1 and November 8, this gains a plenary indulgence that can only be applied to the poor souls in purgatory. Any other time of year this gains a partial indulgence. See Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November for more information about indulgences for the Poor Souls.

  • There is also solemn commemoration to be used on All Souls. See Visiting a Cemetery on All Souls Day, Memorial Day, or on the Anniversary of Death or Burial.

  • Make a nice poster listing all the family and friends departed. Put this on display where the members of the family can be reminded to pray for the loved ones throughout November. Remind family members to offer extra prayers and sacrifices for the poor souls in purgatory. Of course this shouldn't be the only motivation, but do include the fact that after these souls reach heaven, they will intercede on your behalf.

  • Read the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy and the section entitled "The Memorial of the Dead in Popular Piety." Of particular note:
    The Christian, who must be conscious of and familiar with the idea of death, cannot interiorly accept the phenomenon of the "intolerance of the dead," which deprives the dead of all acceptance in the city of the living. Neither can he refuse to acknowledge the signs of death, especially when intolerance and rejection encourage a flight from reality, or a materialist cosmology, devoid of hope and alien to belief in the death and resurrection of Christ.
    Some suggested devotions from the Directory (in accordance with time, place and tradition, popular devotions to the dead take on a multitude of forms):

    • the novena for the dead in preparation for 2 November, and the octave prolonging it, should be celebrated in accordance with liturgical norms;

    • visits to the cemetery; in some places this is done in a community manner on 2 November, at the end of the parochial mission, when the parish priest takes possession of the parish; visiting the cemetery can also be done privately, when the faithful go to the graves of their own families to maintain them or decorate them with flowers and lamps. Such visits should be seen as deriving from the bonds existing between the living and the dead and not from any form of obligation, non-fulfilment of which involves a superstitious fear;

    • membership in a confraternity or other pious association whose objects include "burial of the dead" in the light of the Christian vision of death, praying for the dead, and providing support for the relatives of the dead;

    • suffrage for the dead through alms deeds, works of mercy, fasting, applying indulgences, and especially prayers, such as the De profundis, and the formula Requiem aeternam [Eternal Rest], which often accompanies the recitation of the Angelus, the rosary, and at prayers before and after meals.
    • Have family discussions about death, preparing for death, funerals, and the Sacrament of the Sick. Visit the cemetery with children. Visits to the cemetery should be uplifting, calm and peaceful, not a scary event.

  • From the Catholic Culture library:

    For many more documents search the library for "purgatory."

  • In many places this day centers around the family departed and the cemetery. Families go to gravesites, clean them, decorate them, add candles. This can be an all day affair, with picnics and celebration. Of particular note is the Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead, celebration in Mexico on November 2. One could say this is the "Mexican Halloween." For more information on this Catholic holiday, see Mexico Connect for a variety of links for information. Please note that as with many holidays, there is much commercialism and secularism. Read Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy to understand the harmony that piety and devotions must have with the Liturgy.
    Deeply rooted cultural elements connoting particular anthropological concepts are to be found among the customs and usages connected with the "cult of the dead" among some peoples. These often spring from a desire to prolong family and social links with the departed. Great caution must be used in examining and evaluating these customs. Care should be taken to ensure that they are not contrary to the Gospel. Likewise, care should be taken to ensure that they cannot be interpreted as pagan residues.

  • To make sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead, see Mexican Sugar Skull and Hearthsong.

  • See the drop down recipe section at the top for the many recipes connected to this day. Of particular note is the English "Soul Cakes," the Italian "Eggs in Purgatory" and Fave dei Morti (Beans of the Dead), "Bread of the Dead" from Mexico, and "Dry Bones Cookies" from Switzerland.