Update All Saints and All Souls 2013

This coming week we celebrate two major Christian feasts..
All Saints on Friday November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd. 

Scripture readings for All Saints Day Mass are here.

Scripture readings for All Souls Day Mass are here

Beautiful monochrome illustration of the Saints

The ancient Celts called the end of October and the beginning of November, Samhain.
The Gaelic calendar recognised the natural seasons of the earth with four main festivals, Imbolc (spring), Beltane (Summer), Lughnasadh (Harvest season also known as Lammas), and Samhain (the onset of winter). 

Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark nights and cold winters, a time of year that was often associated with human death. 

By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honour the dead.  All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. 

The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

To hallow is "to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate". The adjective form hallowed, as used in The Lord's Prayer, means holy, consecrated, sacred, or revered.

If you have Celtic sensibilities especially at this time of year there is a heightened recognition of this time being a "thin place" between this world and the next.
  So it's a special time when we can pray for and with each other in the Communion of Saints and All Souls.

Click here for A Meditation on Death and Life by William A. Barry S.J. from America Magazine.

Click here for a reflection from the blog "Interrupting The Silence."- about the Transfiguration but it is also a pretty accurate description of what a thin place means 

Click here for  a lovely reflection for the feast of All Saints and All Souls by John Davies, which finishes with this Jewish prayer below...

 "This day in sacred convocation we remember those who gave us life. 
We remember those who enriched our lives with love and beauty, 
kindness and compassion, 
thoughtfulness and understanding. 
We renew our bonds to those who have gone the way of all earth. 
As we reflect upon those whose memory moves us this day, 
we seek consolation,
 and the strength and the insight born of faith. 
Tender as a parent with a child, the Lord is merciful. 
God knows how we are fashioned, remembers that we are dust. 
 Our days are as grass; we flourish as a flower in a field.
 The wind passes over it and is gone,
 and no one can recognize where it grew.
 But the Lord's compassion for us, 
the Lord's righteousness to children's children, 
remain, age after age, 

Here's a few quotes from the late John O'Donohue from his book Anam Cara: A Book Of Celtic Wisdom

“The Celtic mind was not burdened by dualism. It did not separate what belongs together” 

 “The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused.” 
 All Souls Day is a reminder not only of the inevitability of death, but also of our connection with eternity.  

 "Death carries us home where “… all that we seek – goodness, unity, beauty, truth, and love – are no longer distant for us…” 

 It is human and natural to grieve for those who we have lost and the pain of loss is often not that far from the surface. Many people find this time of year very difficult, because we do feel sad and miss those whom we have loved. Maybe some comfort can be gained from these words.
“We do not need to grieve for the dead. Why should we grieve for them? They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation, or pain. They are home.”


  • Combined post on All Saints and All Souls Day 2011 here
  • Combined Post on All Saints and All Souls Day 2012 here 
  • All Saints Day 2010 post here
  • All Saints Day 2011 post here 

Image source
Click here for my post from 2012 on Trusting In The Providence of God which also relates to this time of year when many feel the acute pangs of grief.

Here's the poem by John O'Donohue on Grief from the post above.

For Grief
When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And, when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal

And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time. 
- John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us
Time for some music..
Like the song by Carrie Newcomer says, 
it's a time for a gathering of spirits.

Click here for link to lyrics.

Back to John O'Donohue

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.” 

From "To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings."

Other Related Articles On The History And Customs Of This Time.

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