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The communion of Saints

The Catholic Church celebrates All Saints Day on November 1. Being the second day of Hallowmas, it begins at sunrise on November 1. Here is a brief history about the day dedicated to saints
Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
The Solemnity of All Saints is when the Catholic and some Protestant Churches honours all saints, known and unknown on November 1. While we have information about many saints, and we honour them on specific days, there are many unknown or unsung saints, who may have been forgotten, or never been honored specifically. On All Saints Day, we celebrate these holy men and women, and ask for their prayers and intercessions. The whole concept of All Saints Day is tied in with that of Communion of Saints, which is a belief that that all of God’s people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (Purgatory), are connected in a communion.
Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs are varied by location, with churches honouring local saints. However, gradually feast days became more universal. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in St Ephrem the Syrian (AD 373). St John Chrysostom (AD 407) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the Eastern Churches the feast is celebrated to this day. In the West, this date was probably originally used, and then the feast was moved to May 13. The current observance (November 1) probably originates from the time of Pope Gregory III (AD 741) who first observed it in Germany.
The vigil of the Feast (the eve) has grown up in the English speaking countries as a festival in itself, All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. While some Christians refuse to observe the holiday, considering it to be ‘pagan’, for the Church, the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints. Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast’s vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. Various customs have developed related to Halloween. In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for ‘soul cakes’, and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. Portuguese children celebrate the Pão-por-Deus tradition, going door-to-door where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates. This only occurs in central Portugal.
The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St Peter’s for the relics ‘of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world’, with the day moved to November 1 and May 13 feast suppressed.
The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The origin of All Saints’ Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places. However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of ‘all the dead’.
A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1, in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, which confirmed its celebration on November 1. It is a holiday in many Catholic countries. During the Portuguese regime Goa had holidays on these days. After liberation, these holidays were revoked and November 2 was made a Restricted holiday, that means one had to apply for a holiday.
The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI. After his wife’s death in 893 who lived a devout life, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to ‘All Saints’, so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honoured whenever the feast was celebrated. According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of all martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.

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