Next week we celebrate All Hallows Day. The term is not common in America, but it is more familiar to Irish and English Catholics as the name for the Feast of All Saints. The word “hallow” means holy, or more specifically, making things holy as in the Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed be thy name.”
All Saints or All Hallows on November 1st was established in the 8th century by Pope Gregory III to honor “the holy apostles and all saints, martyrs and confessors.” They were made “hallow” by the witness of their lives. They are honored or venerated because of the heroic lives they led.
All Saints is one of the twin observances in early November. The other is All Souls Day, in which the Church remembers and prays for the deceased, often referred to as the “poor souls,” who “have not yet been purified of the punishment for sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1475)
Folk observances have emerged in connection with both observances. Halloween (All Hallows Eve) is probably connected to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain or summers end when pagans believed the dead returned. Thus we have the ghosts and skeletons of Halloween.
Our Mexican heritage brings us the Dia de los Muertos on All Souls Day, a time when families gather together to remember and pray for relatives and friends who have died. People visit cemeteries and private altars are built and stories about dead relatives are told. Like Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, probably has pagan roots in an ancient Aztec festival.
Early on, the Church learned to use pagan observances to catechize. The primary examples would be pagan observances that coincided with Christmas and Easter, which were transformed into Christian feasts.
The Feast of All Saints is a Holy Day of Obligation. I pray you will be blessed and strengthened in your faith as you honor our “hallowed” ones and that you will receive God’s great comfort and peace as you remember your loved ones on All Souls Day.