All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.
Although millions, or even billions of people may already be saints, All Saints’ Day observances tend to focus on known saints –that is those recognized in the canon of the saints by the Catholic Church.
All Saints’ Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls’ Day, which follows All Saints.
A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. In the 11th century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the 18th century it became a feast of the universal Church. It is now recognized as a solemnity.
In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”
Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming.” Jesus is coming, and Advent is intended to be a season of preparation for His arrival. While we typically regard Advent as a joyous season, it is also intended to be a period of preparation, much like Lent. Prayer, penance and fasting are appropriate during this season.
Advent is not as strict as Lent, and there are no rules for fasting, but it is meant to be a period of self-preparation. The purple color associated with Advent is also the color of penance. The faithful should fast during the first two weeks in particular and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The color of the Third Sunday of Advent is rose. This color symbolizes joy and represents the happiness we will experience when Jesus comes again. The Third Sunday is a day of anticipatory celebration.
Finally, Sundays during Advent, just as during Lent, should not be given to fasting, but instead to celebration because we celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord every Sunday. It is important to remember, however, there are no particular rules for how the laity should observe Advent.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a popular Christmas song. In the sixteenth century, the religious wars in England made it dangerous to be a Christian. The well-known song was used to teach children about the Catholic Church. Although the lyrics may sound like nonsense, the song actually contains hidden references:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
Two Turtle Doves
The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens
The Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love
Four Calling Birds
The Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Five Golden Rings
The First Five Books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Six Geese A-Laying
The Six Days of Creation
Seven Swans A-Swimming
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord
Eight Maids A-Milking
The Eight Beatitudes:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Nine Ladies Dancing
The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control
Ten Lords A-Leaping
The Ten Commandments:
- I am the Lord your God: You shall not have strange gods before me.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain.
- Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not kill.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
Eleven Pipers Piping
The Eleven Faithful Apostles: Peter, Andrew, James the Elder, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the Younger, Simon, and Jude
Twelve Drummers Drumming
Twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed:
- I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
- I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
- He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
- He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.
- On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
- He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the holy catholic Church,
- the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and life everlasting. Amen.