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On November 2nd, we’ll celebrate All Souls Day. For Catholics, this is an important day for the commemoration of the faithful departed. While it’s not a public holiday, it is a day to spend in prayer, honoring those we love who have died. But why do we celebrate All Souls Day? And how is it different from All Saints Day?

All Saints Day falls on November 1st, and while the two holidays each celebrate baptized Christians who have died, they’re distinctly different. All Saints Day commemorates our departed loved ones who have attained heaven, while All Souls Day is a day of intercession for those Christians who remain in Purgatory. All Souls Day is dedicated not just to remembrance, but also to prayers for those who have died with the guilt of lesser sins on their souls.

In Catholicism, we believe that the soul of a person who has died can go to one of three places. If the person dies in a state of perfect grace and communion with God, he or she is destined for heaven. Those who die in a state of mortal sin are condemned to hell. The third option, purgatory, is reserved for those who are free from mortal sin but haven’t yet obtained full sanctification and moral perfection, necessary to enter heaven. The souls suffering in purgatory must be cleansed and perfected before reaching heaven. They can’t achieve this for themselves, so it is the responsibility of the faithful on earth to intercede on their behalf, praying for the sanctification of their souls.

Unlike All Saints Day, All Souls Day is not a holy day of obligation. And while many cultures observe this day, there are many different ways to mark it. In North America, we might say extra prayers or light candles for our loved ones who have died. Requiem masses are often attended, and some people visit and decorate the graves of their loved ones. In some parts of Latin America, it’s customary for families to visit their ancestors’ graves, often leaving food offerings for those who have died. Many places celebrate Dia de los Muertos, (Day of the Dead), on November 1st and 2nd. There are festivals, parties, and group celebrations, and some people commemorate their loved ones using ofrendas (offerings) on altars with food, symbols, candles, flowers, photos, and mementos.

The Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of San Jose is committed to providing a sacred place, where you and your family can remember and honor your loved ones in a peaceful and hope-filled setting. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer them. We have three locations: Calvary Catholic Cemetery in San Jose, Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos, and St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Milpitas. For more information, contact us through our website, or call Calvary at 833-428-0379, Gate of Heaven at 833-304-0763, or St. John the Baptist at 833-428-0379.

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