Letter from the Pastor
Dearest Friends in Christ,
Many parishioners have approached me inquiring about All Saints Day, which this year falls on a Tuesday. This feast is observed and celebrated every November 1st as a Holy Day of Obligation. The Mass schedule for All Saints Day is as follows: Monday, October 31, 6:30pm bilingual vigil Mass at ODS; Tuesday, November 1, 8:00am English Mass at ODS; 6:30pm English Mass at St. Ann. And so if any of our children want to dress up as a saint for this Mass, I encourage it. In fact I would recommend families to dress up as different saints and read about them on this day. For by honoring them and seeking to imitate them, we honor God with our whole heart and soul. Remember that “the saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by tremendous yearning.” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux) Life is too short to ignore our most loyal friends.
On Wednesday, as with every November 2nd, is All Souls’ Day, a day on which Holy Mother Church invites us to pray for the souls of the deceased. Traditionally this has been carried out in various ways: visits to cemeteries, attendance at a memorial Mass for the deceased, the arrangement of flowers on a loved ones’ grave, or praying the Holy Rosary for poor souls in Purgatory.
On this feast day, the priest has the option to wear white, violet or black vestments. Throughout the history of the Church, black vestments are the more traditional vestments worn for this feast because they best signify the mourning and praying for the dead. However white is currently the most commonly used vestment in the United States for All Souls. This seems to detract from the real purpose of this feast and simultaneously diminishes the significance of the Solemnity of All Saints. The liturgical color of white denotes festivity and rejoicing. Thus this color seems appropriate for All Saints while black seems more fitting for All Souls since it denotes mourning and praying for the dead. Now one might object saying then that violet should be worn if white isn’t appropriate, but this color of violet really signifies penance and sorrow for our own sins, which also seems to miss the mark as to what the feast of All Souls is really about.
So the liturgical colors matter because they communicate a certain theology to the faithful. Neglecting to wear black because we priests or liturgists think it is depressing is actually communicating that there is no need for us to mourn and pray for the dead, especially our deceased loved ones. And yet this is precisely what we need to do. St. John Chrysostom once wrote, “Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” So let us hold All Souls close to our hearts and not forget about them. They are helplessly waiting for us to have compassion on them and pray for them this All Souls’ Day, and every day.
Pax et bonum,
Fr. Justin R. Ferguson