Non Solum: Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

Today’s Question: Commemorating the Faithful Departed

“All Souls’ Day” is name most Catholics know for November 2, but the Missal calls it “Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed,” with “All Souls’ Day” following in parentheses. It is customary to pray especially for the dead throughout the month. How do you commemorate the faithful departed on November 2nd and throughout the month?

At Saint John’s Abbey, a new custom was begun a few years ago. A few weeks before November, we invite all visitors to the church, and everyone on our mailing list, to write the names of beloved faithful departed on a card. These cards are put at the entrance to the choir stalls, and monks take a card (or two or three) into Mass or Office to pray especially for the names on the card. This continues throughout the month of November, until Advent begins.

I hasten to add, given the checkered history of selling indulgences, and the 95 Theses that (at least legendarily) gave birth to the Protestant Reformation, we are at pains not to accept donations in conjunction with our invitation for people to send in the names of faithful departed!

What are your practices to remember the dead?

Moderator’s note: “Non solum” is a feature at Pray Tell for our readership community to discuss practical liturgical issues. The title comes from article 11 of the Vatican II liturgy constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Therefore there is to be vigilance among holy pastors that in liturgical action not only are laws for valid and licit celebration to be observed, but that the faithful should participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully.” (Ideo sacris pastoribus advigilandum est ut in actione liturgica non solum observentur leges ad validam et licitam celebrationem, sed ut fideles scienter, actuose et fructuose eandem participent.) May the series contribute to good liturgical practice – not only following the law, but especially grasping the spirit of the liturgy!

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26 comments

  1. A local parish which usually has a very well attended special evening Mass on All Souls Day will be having that next week. In that Mass they mention by name all those whose funerals have been celebrated during the past year.

    (The Orthodox have a similar commemoration which occurs on one of the Saturdays before Lent. The local Orthodox parish commemorates by name all those in the parish who have died ever. The parish has existed for about twenty years. It currently has around 100 to 200 families, and the recitation takes about seven minutes, during which time the choir chants the Kyrie in Greek, Slavonic and English. )

    During the month all those will be remembered whose names are written either on the All Souls Envelope (there are seven lines for names) or who are entered in a Book of Remembrance in the narthex. The All Souls Envelopes are kept for the whole month. Unlike regular envelopes the amount is not indicated on the front. I presume they simply remove the back which has the usual collection documentation.

  2. Book of the Names of the Faithful Departed available in late October thru November for inscription of names. With All Souls Day on a Saturday this year, a shame that many parishes are not celebrating a Mass for that Commemoration — the vigil Masses are for the 31st Sunday of the Year. When I was a pastor I made such Vigil Masses on Saturday, Nov. 2 All Souls Day Masses.

    Some parishes have a special Liturgy of the Word, inviting family and friends of those who died since the last Nov. 2 to that service, but having that on a Saturday this year may be a difficulty.

  3. We have an annual Mass for the Bereaved to which those who have been bereaved in the previous year are invited by name. At the Prayer of the Faithful the names of those who have died in the previous year are read out and their bereaved come forward and light a candle that is left on the altar steps for the rest of the mass.
    The whole mass is celebrated in subdued light, with gentle, consoling songs. There is much gentle weeping and much healing.
    Not sure if this a a Mass for the Dead in the sense that some would recognise, though.

    1. “… monks take a card (or two or three) into Mass or Office to pray especially for the names on the card.”

      This is lovely, as is this:

      @Alan Johnson – comment #4:

      “We have an annual Mass for the Bereaved… The whole mass is celebrated in subdued light, with gentle, consoling songs. There is much gentle weeping and much healing.”

      I think it’s absolutely beautiful. Just reading about it makes me tear up.

      When my father passed away, combining our nation’s tradition with our Catholic faith, my family observed forty-nine day period of mourning following the funeral (as is tradition) by dedicating forty-nine consecutive masses (excluding Sundays) for the repose of his soul. And at every mass, there indeed was much weeping and much healing… Since then, every time a priest says “for all who have died…” the heart aches some, but then eventually, finds peace.

      Back to the original question: We are having All Souls’ Day Mass on Friday (plus the vigil mass on Thursday) this year. Other than the mass, I don’t think there are any special practices — like the ones others described above — that are intended specifically for the remembrance of the dead.

  4. In the “Fran has two parishes” world, there are two sets of practices….

    Work parish – people write the names of the deceased on paper or use a church supplied envelope that is not required to have any cash in it, although sometimes it does. Those envelopes are held by a large purple ribbon, plainly tied and are on a surface near the tabernacle for the month.

    We also have a mass for the deceased on All Souls, with the families who buried someone out of the parish specifically invited. All are of course, welcomed! Those who lost someone will each approach the altar when called and will light a candle in memory of their beloved deceased.

    Worhship parish: Similar mass on All Souls Day for the deceased as described above.

    A book of the dead is on a stand where throughout the month people are invited to write the names of their beloved departed ones.

  5. We celebrate with solemn Evensong, wither on the day itself or, with its celebration on Saturday this year, on Sunday evening. In place of the intercessory prayer the litany of the saints is sung; the names of all those who have died in the past year are sung at the beginning of each group of three saints, and family members are invited to come forward to light a candle, which is then placed near the Paschal candle for the duration. Families are invited to take the candle with them after fellowship. In addition there is a Book of Remembrance set in the shrine area, wherein all are invited, throughout November, to inscribe the names of loved ones who have gone before us.

  6. In our parish community all are invited to submit a picture of a deceased loved one and the pictures are placed on a tiered table to the right and rear of the altar table. They remain there from the week before Nov 2 until after that date. We have been doing that for many years.

  7. Our observance of the day will begin with two masses in the morning, as opposed to the usual one. Since the day’s Commemoration “outranks” a Sunday in Ordinary Time, the 5pm Vigil Mass will also be an “All Souls” Mass. The day will conclude with Solemn Vespers, followed by a parish reception, especially invited, families who have lost a loved one within the last year.

    1. @Dismas Bede – comment #10:
      Does anyone here know why All Souls’ Day now takes precedence over a Sunday in Ordinary Time? I don’t believe it did in the early days of the present missal, or before 1962—on the grounds, I assume, that All Souls’, like Requiem Masses, was too un-Easterlike an observance for Sunday. When November 2 fell on a Sunday, All Souls’ Day was moved to November 3.
      A result of the new rule: in years when November 2 is a Sunday, All Souls’ Day is a day of obligation in the USA and All Saints’ Day isn’t. As a huge fan of All Saints’ Day, I’m not pleased.

  8. In our parish, candles are prepared with the names of the dead. During mass, the names are read and the candles are lit. They are placed in the form of a large cross in front of the altar. Since this year All Souls is at the weekend, the candles will remain through the Sinday masses.

    After this, the candles are stored and are used in the sanctuary lamp at the tabernacle through the coming year.

  9. In our parish, parishioners inscribe names of their beloved dead in a book of the dead. During the entire month of November, names of parishioners who died during the previous year are named and prayed for publicly at Mass along with a litany of saints.

  10. Beginning the weekend before Nov 1, we set up a podium near the lecturn with our Book of the Dead. Next to the podium is the paschal candle that is lit. Everyone is invited to inscribe the names of friends and loved ones. This remains in its place until the eve of Advent. During all masses in November, we include this book of the dead in the General Intercessions.
    For All Souls day, we have a special Mass in the evening. Folks are asked to bring in framed pictures of family and friends who have died. These pics are placed on the altar steps by the people prior to the beginning of the Mass. After mass, there are light refreshments sponsored by our Brevement ministry.

  11. On the Marini-2 webpage of the Calendar of Papal Celebrations , for November 1st, the Solemnity of All Saints, the Pope will have Holy Mass at 16:00 (4pm) at the Cemetery of Verano.

    No other indications or Booklet available, yet.

    Is this going to be the Mass for all Saints? Is this a way to have a popular “All Souls” celebration and have it count for the All Saint’s Feast day? The Pope is a Jesuit.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #15:

      “Is this going to be the Mass for all Saints? Is this a way to have a popular “All Souls” celebration and have it count for the All Saint’s Feast day?”

      Interesting questions.

      Also, they made me realize that OMGoodness, I totally mixed the two up, when I said this earlier (@ comment #5): We are having All Souls’ Day Mass on Friday (plus the vigil mass on Thursday) this year.

      The Mass is for All Saints, not Souls, Day (although I have every confidence all saints have souls).

  12. In addition to the kinds of things mentioned above, there’s a KC area Lutheran parish that had a practice years ago (and may still have today, for all I know) that adds to their celebration of All Saints Day on Nov 1.

    Throughout the year, there would be a pair of banners hanging in the narthex. Each had a panel of cloth about 12″ by 48″ at the top — one with symbols of resurrection and the other with symbols of baptism. As the year progressed, each time there was a funeral in the parish, a 12″ square would be added to the resurrection banner with the name of the deceased and the dates of their life. Similarly, each time there was a baptism, a square was added to the other banner with the person’s name and their baptismal date. Thus, they grew in size as the year rolled on.

    When All Saints Day arrived, these banners would be part of the entrance procession, lifting up (literally and figuratively) the saints who had died along with the new saints in the community. Following worship, the panels would be removed from the banner and given to either the survivors of the deceased or the one who was baptized. For young children who were baptized as infants, this becomes a tangible reminder of that day, which many families hang on the wall of the child’s room and it becomes part of the family catechesis. (“Let me tell you about that day . . .”) For those mourning a death, it becomes a tangible reminder of not only the deceased loved one but also the community that surrounded that loved one.

    It was very powerful to see this as a guest in the parish, and I’ve been told by several of the families involved that receiving the panels is a profoundly moving spiritual experience as well.

  13. For several years we’ve been displaying pictures of deceased family members on the walls of the worship space. Every year we send invitations to those who have had a family death to celebrate Mass and share a meal following; of course, this is a Mass for the whole parish. This year the Mass will be on Saturday with brunch following. During the Mass those who wish inscribe the name of their loved one in the Book of Remembrance, which is displayed at the font. At this Mass and on each Sunday, the Book is brought forward at the conclusion of the Prayer of the Faithful. Also, the names of those especially commemorated are named in the Eucharistic prayer at each Mass of the month.

  14. I am not in my parish for this year’s Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, but we will have a large scroll in calligraphy by one of our parishioners, of all of our parishioners who have died since last November 1st to October 31 of this year placed in our Blessed Mother’s Chapel. In front of that is a lectern with the Book of the Faithful Departed where parishioners can enter the names of loved ones who have died.
    At the All Soul’s Mass, each name of parishioners who died this year is chanted and we do it again the Sunday following All Souls as a prelude to the official Introit.
    The scroll and book remain in place through Christ the King Sunday.
    For the last four years we have also sung the evening of All Souls Faure’s Requiem in the Extraordinary Form as a Solemn Sung Mass with deacon and subdeacon, with the final prayers at the catafalque which is present and draped in black. We have had upwards to 150 people at this Requiem which is quite beautiful. But since All Souls falls on a Saturday this year and I’m not in the parish, we will not have it but resume next year with it as the “Vigil of All Souls” when it falls on a Sunday.

  15. We solicit names for The Book of the Names of the Dead which is placed near the altar throughout November. Pictures of the loved ones of parishioners flank the baptismal font as well. The names of all parishioners who died since last All Souls Day are featured on large cards on the wall of the church. We will celebrate the Mass of All Souls on Sat. Eve at 5pm. It’s either that or a small gathering of the devout at a Saturday morning Mass.

  16. When I was working at a parish in the San Fernando Valley, at the beginning of November we would hang long, wide ribbons down the side walls of the church. Each ribbon carried the (beautifully handwritten) name of someone who had died during the previous 12 months.

    The ribbons stayed in situ until the “memorial Mass” towards the end of the month to which all relatives and friends of the deceased were invited. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the names of all those who had died were read out. At the end of the Mass, relatives and friends were invited to come and take their ribbon from the wall and take it home.

    It seemed to be a moving symbol for many. The ribbons were golden in color — a hint of resurrection.

  17. Paul R. Schwankl : @Dismas Bede – comment #10: Does anyone here know why All Souls’ Day now takes precedence over a Sunday in Ordinary Time? I don’t believe it did in the early days of the present missal, or before 1962—on the grounds, I assume, that All Souls’, like Requiem Masses, was too un-Easterlike an observance for Sunday. When November 2 fell on a Sunday, All Souls’ Day was moved to November 3. A result of the new rule: in years when November 2 is a Sunday, All Souls’ Day is a day of obligation in the USA and All Saints’ Day isn’t. As a huge fan of All Saints’ Day, I’m not pleased.

    Bugnini address this in The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, “Requests came from various quarters that the commemoration of all the dead might be celebrated on November 2 even when this fell on a Sunday. The relator observed that he saw no difficulty with this, inasmuch as many of the formularies of Masses for the deceased had a paschal character. White vestments could be used. For pastoral reasons and because of the paschal vision of Christian death, the Consilium voted in favour” (316). There is an interesting footnote which adds, “The situation was left somewhat anomalous, since the Mass was to be for the deceased but the Office was to be of Sunday, except pars of it that are celebrated with the congregation, such as Lauds and Vespers.”

    1. @Jeffery BeBeau – comment #25:
      But if the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is “paschal” enough to be celebrated on Sunday, what’s the difference between it and All Saints’ Day? It looks to me as though Bugnini and his contemporaries overlooked this difficulty in their enthusiasm to provide a more powerful opportunity to remember the dead.
      I think of All Souls’ Day as an opportunity to pray FOR the dead that they may be loosed from their sins; it continues the ancient practice that undergirds the sometimes suspect notion of purgatory. Violet vestments strike me as more appropriate for the day than white. To me, it differs in rationale both from All Saints’ Day and from our current burial Mass, in which the resurrection of Jesus and the general resurrection are—very rightly—stressed more than the sins of the deceased. I just don’t think it belongs on a Sunday.

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