A Spotlight on the Spiritual Significance of Hallowtide and of a Catafalque Display, Including a Podcast on the Topic

Today and the next two days are often referred to as Hallowtide, which encompasses All Hallows’ Eve (October 31); the Solemnity of All Saints, or All Saints’ Day, on November 1; and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, or All Souls’ Day, on November 2.

All Saint’s Day reflects all of the saints in heaven, those known and those unknown, and it also reminds us of our belief as Catholics in the Communion of Saints, professed as we recite the Creed at Mass. The Communion of Saints is a fellowship encompassing all members of the Church: The Church Triumphant (the deceased, or saints, who are in heaven), the Church Militant (the living who are still pilgrims on their earthly journey) and the Church Suffering (the souls of the deceased who are being purified in purgatory and awaiting entrance into heaven). The Communion of Saints is a way of uniting us all in one, holy, Catholic family.

Here’s how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Communion of Saints:

The Church is a “communion of saints”: this expression refers first to the “holy things” (sancta), above all the Eucharist, by which “the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ, is both represented and brought about.” (LG 3). The term “communion of saints” refers also to the communion of “holy persons” (sancti) in Christ who “died for all,” so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all. “We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (Paul VI, CPG § 30). 

Here is the schedule of All Saints’ Day Masses at the Basilica: 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:10 p.m., with an additional Mass at 7:30 p.m. (While this is a Holy Day, the obligation is lifted this year because it falls on a Monday.) 

November 2, All Souls’ Day, is when we remember and pray for the souls of those individuals in purgatory. Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory:

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, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. 

In celebrating Mass on All Souls’ Day, priests may wear vestments that are violet (symbolizing penance), black (symbolizing mourning) or white (symbolizing the hope of resurrection).

New for us this year at the Basilica will be a traditional catafalque (bier and empty coffin covered with the pall) displayed in the Basilica. (To learn more about a catafalque display, please click here to read a great article on the topic by Shawn Tribe, founder of the Liturgical Arts Journal.) 

The All Souls’ Day catafalque is part of an old practice known as memento mori, or “remember your death.” This phrase has recently entered the public’s consciousness due to the efforts of Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, of the Daughters of Saint Paul, who has written and posted extensively on the spiritual meaning of the phrase on the internet.

Memento mori provides us with an important perspective on our own lives in view of Christ’s call to repentance, conversion and the hope of resurrection. For more on this tradition, and on the spiritual significance of Hallowtide and of catafalque displays, click below to listen to a podcast interview with Saint Mary parishioner Mary Petrino.

Our All Souls’ Novena also begins on November 2. Remember your loved ones by entering their names on that day’s contribution envelopes; extra envelopes are at the back of the Basilica. Or, donate online via Faith Direct by clicking here. 

We also have a Book of Remembrance in the Sacred Heart transept to enroll the names of deceased loved ones.

We encourage you to go to Mass  at the Basilica on November 2. Here’s the schedule of Masses for the day: 6:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:10 p.m., with the addition of a Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass) at 7:30 p.m.

Ultimately, by striving to grow in holiness and with the help of God’s grace, our pilgrim journeys can end in heaven.

Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines heaven:
Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ.They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face. … This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called “heaven.” 

Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,” but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name. For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom. … In the glory of heaven, the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him “they shall reign for ever and ever.”

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