As we now enter more fully into the month of November we can find a couple of themes for us to reflect on, and in many ways, they are a good fit for each other: 1) The month of the faithful departed, and 2) Thanksgiving.
The month of November is dedicated to all of the “faithful departed’ because it opens with All Saints Day on Nov. 1, and All Souls Day on Nov. 2. The Solemnity of All Saints probably dates back to the fourth century when it was entitled the “Feast of All Martyrs” and celebrated on May 13. Years later, Pope Gregory IV (827-844) transferred the day to Nov. 1. As far as All Souls Day the Ordo notes that “Rooted in ancient Christian tradition (2nd century and Tertullian), St. Odilo of Cluny (whose feast day is Jan. 1) established a memorial of all the faithful departed in 988. It was accepted in Rome in the 13th century.”
Thus, the entire month of November not only reflects the Paschal Mystery of the death and Resurrection of the Lord, including the teaching of “Purgatory” and the spiritual work of mercy of “praying for the living and the dead.” This month is a good time to remember in thanksgiving all of those who have “gone before us marked with the sign of Faith” and to pray in thanksgiving for their lives and example to us.
It is a month to visit cemeteries (when possible) and to take some time in our parish churches, chapels and oratories to think of them and pray for them. The altars and cultural displays which accompany All Souls Day around the world – especially in Italy and Mexico – are rooted in faith and local custom and tradition. They remind us of the reality of death, the hope of eternal life, and in fact how those whom we love are never far from us, in ways that we cannot completely understand, but which in Faith, we say “YES” to!