The Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls

What is the difference between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day?

All Saints’ Day is celebrated annually on November 1 and is usually one of the six holy days of obligation celebrated in the United States. The day celebrates the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. In the west, a key step in the establishment of All Saints’ Day was in 609/610 AD, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome as a church and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs.

After rejoicing on November 1 with those of her children who have entered the glory of heaven, the Church then prays for all those who have died and await the day when they will join the company of saints in heaven. This is All Souls’ Day which is celebrated on November 2 each year. The doctrine of the communion of saints tells us that the sacrifices and prayers of each Christian are able to help all, so the Church on earth joins the saints in heaven in praying for all those who have died, especially through the Mass. (The custom of praying for the deceased is actually found in the Old Testament [see 2 Maccabees 12:38-46].)

Some Ideas for Celebrating All Souls' Day at Home

  • Pray for the deceased in these way recommended by the Church:
  • Gather for Evening Prayer, using the Office of the Dead.
  • Place your loved one’s name in the Book of the Dead at your parish to be remembered by your community.*
  • Visit the cemetery to pray. In some places this is done in a community manner on November 2.
  • Visiting the cemetery can also be done privately, when the faithful go to the graves of their own families to pray and to maintain them or decorate them with flowers and lamps.*
  • Have family discussions about death, preparing for death, funerals, and the Sacrament of the Sick. Visit the cemetery with children. Visits to the cemetery should be uplifting, calm and peaceful, not a scary event.*
  • If weather permits, a group from the parish could plan to visit a cemetery to walk, pray, read scripture, sing, carry candles, decorate graves, hold a vigil, etc.
  • Create a display board in the parish gathering space for the month of November for people to write names and share memories of loved ones.
  • Families can have a special meal and place pictures of loved ones and serve loved one’s favorite dishes.

*Content adapted from and

Scripture passages that may provide comfort

Psalm 23, Psalm 25, Psalm 27, Psalm 63, Psalm 103, Job 19: 23-27, Wisdom 3: 1-9, Wisdom 4:7-15, Lamentations 3: 17-26, Acts 10: 34-43, Romans 5: 5-11, Romans 6: 3-9, 1 Corinthians 15: 20-23, 2 Corinthians 4:14 - 5:1, Matthew 5:1-12, Luke 12: 35-40, Luke 24: 13-35, John 6: 37-40, John 14:1-6

Kid’s resources for All Saints’ Day

Intergenerational Session from Loyola Press:

“A Colossal Set of Resources on All Saints Day” from Raising (and teaching) Little Saints:

“All Saints’ Scavenger Hunt” from A Shower of Roses Blog:

 Kids’ resources for All Souls’ Day

“Ora pro Nobis Candy Boxes” from a Shower of Roses Blog:

A Month of Activities for the Poor Souls:

A Story of All Souls’ Day from Maria von Trapp (whose story you can watch in the “Sound of Music”):

How do I learn more about the Saints?

The USCCB recommends reading about saints who were great evangelists. You can check out their suggestions HERE.

pope francis
Photo credit: Catholic News Service

"Remembering is what strengthens a people because they feel rooted, they have an identity and history. Memory reminds us that we are not alone. We are part of a people. Let us ask the Lord today, to give us the grace to never lose or hide the memory of loved ones, the grace to continue to hope and the grace to understand what are the lights that can accompany us on the journey so that we do not err and so we can arrive where they await us with such love."- from Pope Francis' homily on All Souls Day in 2018.