All Souls Day and How to Celebrate at Home – The Domestic Church

On All Souls Day we remember and pray for our deceased loved ones and especially for those souls in purgatory. It is also a day and time to remind ourselves that we too are mortal children of a loving and merciful God. Throughout the month of November, we can celebrate All Souls Day with prayer and remembering our departed loved ones and it’s a perfect time to share our stories of our passed loved ones. It is natural and healthy to grieve, mourn and feel sorrow for the loss of those close to us. As a priest one commented there are only three places a departed soul might go: heaven, hell, or purgatory. And, since we do not know God's ledger book, we should always pray for the souls of our departed and those in purgatory. It is in our faith we know that Jesus suffered death and was raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of the Father. It is in faith there is the hope and the promise of everlasting life in the resurrection of Jesus.

During this pandemic, many parishes will celebrate All Souls Day Masses with limited seating and precautions. The following are some thoughts, ideas, and suggestions to celebrate All Souls Day and the days throughout November in our homes and at the cemeteries.

In some cultures and countries families erect a small shrine and altar in their homes for their departed loved ones. They place pictures, candles, crucifix and mementos and items of the departed loved ones on the altar to remember them throughout the month of November. Some families burn incense during prayers for their loved ones. When my father died, we received a candle with his picture on it. My mother gave me a plaque which reads, "Working for God pays very little, but the Retirement benefits are out of this world!" My wife has pictures of her late father surrounded with my wife and her sisters and a special rosary from her grandmother. These are items which help us in celebrating the lives of our departed loved ones.

Some families share special meals that were favorite dishes of their loved ones. Some families bake special breads and cookies to share with each other or leave out for the deceased or place them on the graves of their departed. Others might celebrate the day at home with food, music, dancing, face painting and dress of their heritage. Sharing of a special meal of food and drink is a great home celebration for remembering them in our lives and sharing stories of them around a table. While visiting a terminal cancer patient she said what she feared in death was that no one would ever remember her. In the past with some of my seminary classmates and friends we would get together and celebrate the life of a priest/teacher we had in the seminary. We would toast him with a glass of his favorite expensive scotch whiskey and share our stories of him. If you are going to gather with others, please keep the gatherings safe and follow the proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID.

Weather permitting some families visit the graves of their loved ones. Keep it outdoors, small number of people and again use proper precautions. Some people place candles, flowers, or mementos on the grave. One family would leave a bottle of beer on the grave of their father and a special bouquet of flowers, ribbons and bows with pictures of the grandchildren on their mother's grave.

The month of November and All Souls Day should be a time of prayers for our departed love ones. "Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deeds might be fully blotted out." "Thus, he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed of this sin." (2Mc 12:42 and 46) We might pray during November the rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Stations of the Resurrection or an All Souls Day Novena or just spend some silent time with the Lord. We should always pray for those souls in purgatory. During my studies in the seminary at Orchard Lake in November the faculty and students would gather at the Marian Grotto and pray a rosary for the deceased members of the faculty, the workers, the benefactors and the supporters and family members. When I now visit the school and the Grotto, I again pray for all those of the school who are now departed, my family members and my deceased classmates.

Merciful Father,

hear our prayer

and console us.

As we renew

our faith in Your Son,

whom you raised from the dead,

strengthen our hope

that all our departed (name of persons or relationship)

will share in His resurrection,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Eternal Rest grant unto them (him/her),

O Lord,

and let your perpetual light shine upon them (him/her).

May they (he/she) rest in peace.


Written by Leonard Piasta, Faith Formation Chairperson