Today is November 2nd, which according to Roman Catholic tradition, is All Souls’ Day. It follows All Saints’s Day. In Spanish All Souls’s Day is translated, Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead. While growing up a Catholic I did not consider these two days very seriously.
Why does the Roman Catholic Church honor a day for the “big league” saints (All Saints’ Day) and a day for the “minor league” saints (All Souls’ Day)? Why are there two separate days for saints according to this church? Are these days important for all other Christians who are not Catholic? This is what I want to discuss in this post.
As a United States citizen, my country has set aside two holidays every year devoted to those who served in the United States armed forces. One of these holidays is Memorial Day which typically falls on the last Monday of each May. It was established to remember those who have served in the armed forces and have either fallen in battle or have passed away as veterans afterwards.
The second holiday is called Veterans’ Day and it always falls on or about November 11th every year. This day is like a Thanksgiving Day for all soldiers now currently alive who have served in our armed forces. Many expressions of thanks are given to them for their tremendous sacrifice they have given for this country.
With that in mind, the Roman Catholic Church, I believe, has done something similar which, I believe, was not required for the salvation of Christians.
Here is my question: Why does the Roman Catholic Church make a distinction between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day? Both holidays honor Christians – particularly those who were members of the Roman Catholic faith AND who are all currently dead.
All Saints Day (November 1) is about all the venerated (by the Roman Catholic Church) saints in heaven who are asked to pray for us living Christians on earth below. All Souls’ Day, however, is for all of her church members who have died and have not yet been recognized with a special holiness as the saints in heaven. That has been and still is how I understand these days.
Why am I making a fuss over this? What does it have to do with all remaining Christians who are not Catholic? I have several reasons.
First, as a former member of the Roman Catholic Church who has many family members, friends and neighbors attending that church, I must express that this distinction between saints and souls should not be so. All believers, now alive in Christ, are Christian soldiers now! For many departed Christians to be regarded as lesser souls shows a arrogance via the Roman Catholic Church’s leadership.
Second, the Bible shows us how the early apostles greatly focused their service toward the sheep (the saints in the churches who were living throughout the Holy Land and Asia Minor) and their part in fulfilling their mission of spreading the gospel. As soldiers for Christ, they were persecuted.
The Roman Catholic Church is presently being attacked on all sides doctrinally by other religions, governments and educational institutions. Yet, most of her membership, both “great” and “small”, are carrying the cross for Christ, overcoming this world and, in many regions, being persecuted for spreading the gospel.
Third, many Christians in the Catholic faith have left her (the Catholic Church) traditions and moved on to other non-Catholic churches because of her doctrines. Yet the papal’s stubbornness against change and reform to what, I believe, God wants is giving the church an unnecessary bad name or reputation. And that is slowing her growth in many other parts of the world.
Acknowledging who the saints really are (as well as reforming a few of her doctrines) will make a significant difference in revitalizing the Catholic Church and making her become a huge influence toward the unconverted.
Fourth, the commission given to us Christians is not to worship “our fallen heroes” but (let me emphasize again) to spread the gospel throughout the world (Matthew 28:16-19). We are the saints of Jesus Christ, now. Why celebrate holy days and holidays in honor of saints when our service to Christ on this earth has not been completed? Why have days honoring us?
Remembering Those Who Have Died?
I remember my mother lighting a candle on All Souls’ Day acccording to the Catholic tradition. The candle would be lit and left burning in one of the rooms from morning until evening. It was her way of remembering and honoring her beloved ancestors. I could not help remembering how it all centered on death.
Should the Roman Catholic Church become powerful again and flex her muscles in the world’s arena as she did before and during the Middle Ages, (anything is possible!), I will strongly voice my opposition to any attempts of imposing these two holidays – All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day – onto Christendom. They are not important days for the church and they are not relevant to our calling.
Let us continue being beacons of light to the world as Christ told us to be so that the only glory that is to be witnessed is God’s glory through us – not through any holydays or holidays for the dead.