All Saints’ Day

November 1st is All Saints’ Day, a solemnly observed tradition in Roman Catholic nations. I have readers in Poland, Austria, Ireland, and other Catholic countries and they may be very familiar with the customs.

There is often a morning mass at the parish cemetery, following which families walk around, lay flowers, and light candles on the graves of their relative’ and friends. Later the cold, dark November evening comes alive with light.


Yesterday was Halloween, as lively and playful as All Saints’ Day is solemn. Children do what they do best on that day — play. Adults also find their inner kid… just look at any Facebook page. I am sympathetic with the arguments, which come out every year around this time, lamenting that the one-evening’s trick-or-treat custom of a few decades back has grown in significance. But in this case I am happy to say “party on.”

Joy is for the living. Solemnity is for the dead. But the two are not opposite concepts. They are a continuity of the same thing. The departed once lived and partied too, and those of us who light candles today reach across the worlds to speak with them.

What do we say to them? Do they understand that they lived in a different country, one in which eleven-year-olds did not dress up like hookers to their single mothers’ delight? Do our ancestors understand that the German government just informed the mayor of Sumte, a village of 102 residents and no police station, that it is going to get 750 African and Middle Eastern refuges dumped there?

The answer is, our ancestors would be horrified by our problems. But our grandparents had their own problems, and they did what they could. On All Saints’ Day, we can clarify to each other that the wolf is always near. The beast takes different forms but it always seeks the same thing: our destruction, first moral and then physical. And we have to do what we can.

Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. I hope you will say a prayer for your faithful departed. When you pray for those who had passed, you are praying for yourself.


3 thoughts on “All Saints’ Day

  1. My single mom attempted to raise me Churchian but I had to google “All Saint’s Day” and “All Soul’s Day”. Doesn’t mean anything to me.

    In William Pierce’s speech “The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds,” he talks about how death was more real to our ancestors. The community graveyard was always next to the town church and people would walk past their dead friends and relatives every Sunday. Hence, in that time everyone was much more familiar with the impermanence of life; and the drive to leave a lasting mark was much more tangible. Life was not a spectator sport by which to be entertained, but required active participation.

    It’s hard for me to think about that. I don’t like how I feel about myself when I do.
    I don’t think much about dead relatives, and I don’t expect anyone will think of me when I die either. Makes it all seem kind of pointless.

  2. What can we do for the future.

    My impression is that there is an abundance of apocalyptic despair. What can be done and what can possibly matter?

    In the old days, it seemed that men were vying to get their names into the charts, to be talked about after they were gone. But now there is not that tradition and so people actually alive today can’t even really imagine aspiring to that. I mean, since we are not now reliving what our heroes (who were our ancestors) did, it seems unlikely that anyone will be remembering about us!

    Just one kind favor that i ask of you
    See that my grave is kept clean

    I don’t know that Bobby D wrote that lyric but he sang it to great effect, and so it resonated with the Boomers, who were just then coming to grips with how their stories were not gonna be added to the register. I don’t know that the Boomers realized the significance of that break, that break from history and tradition, because for the most part they thought it was a good thing. But without that tradition, and then now there is not even religion? so what are we supposed to do.

    I like the reference to the wolf at the door. That is a motif from the old days. I was thinking about it this afternoon trying to get prepared for the winter in this endless lost cause of civilization.

  3. Pingback: 100th Post – PA

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