Two Catholic feasts that open the month of November — traditionally a time when Catholics honor the dead — offer several important reminders to faithful, says an archdiocesan priest.

The Solemnity of All Saints, celebrated Nov. 1 as a holy day of obligation, honors all those who have attained heaven, both named and unknown. The feast, which traces its origins to early Christianity, was established on its current date by Pope Gregory III, who consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints. Pope Gregory IV later extended the celebration to the entire church.

The feast highlights “the presence and nearness of the saints, and of the glory of heaven,” said Father Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship and rector of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

In addition, the solemnity “inspires us in our own vocation to be saints,” he said. “It’s important for us to remember that being a saint is possible.”

Though not a holy day of obligation, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls) on Nov. 2 reminds faithful to pray for “all those in Purgatory, whether related to us or not – all the souls still awaiting the mercy of God,” said Father Gill.

According to Catholic teaching, those who “die in God’s grace and friendship” but are “still imperfectly purified … undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).

This understanding of Purgatory, whereby such “final purification of the elect” through “cleansing fire” takes place, was formulated in particular at the Councils of Florence and Trent (Catechism, 1031).

As attested in Scripture, prayers for the dead can assuage their sufferings. St. John Chrysostom, citing 2 Maccabees 12:38-46, noted that Judas Maccabeus “made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (Catechism, 1032).

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The Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, home to the Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel, will celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed as follows:

Nov. 1: The Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation

5:15 p.m. Anticipated Mass (Oct. 31) in the Cathedral Chapel
7:15 a.m. Mass in the Cathedral Chapel
12:05 p.m. Mass in the Cathedral Basilica
5:15 p.m. Mass in the Cathedral Chapel

11:30 p.m. Confessions in the Cathedral Basilica

Nov. 2: The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day)

7:15 a.m. Mass in the Cathedral Chapel
12:05 p.m. Mass in the Cathedral Basilica
7 p.m. Mass in the Cathedral Basilica

11:30 a.m. Confessions in the Cathedral Basilica