Last week I wrote about the Catholic origins of our Halloween traditions. This week we need to look at the two days that follow Halloween: they are All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. What is the true significance of all three? Many may remember learning in their catechetical training that the Church has three principle parts: the Church Militant (Pilgrimative), the Church Triumphant and the Church Purgative. This is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers 954-962. These numbers quote Lumen Gentium which is one of the two dogmatic constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, and in particular chapter 49 of this document. I am aware that this all so important aspect of our faith has been actively downplayed, denied or at best in many cases just ignored for decades. Many have even come to believe that Purgatory does not exist. Please consult this chapter of Lumen Gentium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) numbers 1030-1032, all of which clearly uphold the existence of Purgatory and the clear teaching that the Church is truly comprised of these three parts which still enjoy the “communion of the saints” even though separated in different realms of reality (time, eternity, and aevum).
So in these three wonderful days we celebrate the three parts of the Church. First on Halloween, the Church Militant making its way through this dark world of sin and suffering, often disfigured by sin seeking out God’s grace which we can never truly merit. The children, dressed in ghastly costumes and going along in the dark, house to house seeking treats they don’t deserve symbolize this. The adults giving out the free treats represent our obligation to serve and support one another without seeking direct recompense, practicing the charity of God. The next day — All Saints’ Day — is a holy day of obligation. We go to celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ who, with the help of his grace dispensed by his Church, triumph over sin and death and are in heaven with God. Not completely cut off from us, but able to intercede with much greater power than before when on this earth. Then, we celebrate All Souls’ Day. On this day we remember the Purgative Church, those who have died in the state of grace, but that still owed reparation for their sins, who still need to be perfected and purified before they can enter the perfection of heaven. We know that our prayers can help them get to heaven sooner, especially the most perfect prayer of the Holy Mass. So we can offer the Masses on that day for multiple intentions and it is customary for priests to say three Masses on that day.