Feast of All Souls

Feast of All Souls

It’s the Roman Catholic celebration wherein souls who have not yet been granted entrance to heaven may be assisted in attaining entry to the beatific vision by prayer and the sacrifice of the Mass.


I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, but it’s more of a political decision (papal politics) for me than a faith-based one.  The basic tenants of the faith still have meaning for me, and today I’m actually coming out of my place of denial and admitting it.  Though it may be odd for my family to hear me say this, many of my acquaintances are likely unaware of my beliefs, and certainly do not agree with them.  Fortunately, we are all mostly of the live and let live philosophy.


At this stage in my life, there are a number of people in my life who have passed on.  I don’t believe in the concept of purgatory as it doesn’t match my impression of what happens after death.  Actually, heaven and hell, as gross concepts, don’t either; but that’s a different blog post all together.  What I do believe is that we should honor the lives of the departed in some way.  The Feast of All Souls allows us a specific date on which we can celebrate those who have touched us before passing on.


In the medieval period, Europeans had a number of ways of celebrating the dead.  Some shared “soul cakes” with the poor as a means of buying some good will for their own dead loved ones, an early root form of Halloween trick-or-treating.  Others lit candles to lend light to the darkness where it was assumed the dead were kept (away from the light of heaven).  Many other traditions abound, including leaving flowers on graves, leaving food out for the dead, or cleaning up cemeteries and grave stones.  I am not schooled on the traditions surrounding Samhain from which all of this sprung, but expect that it had a much different meaning originally.


One year, I think I would like to recognize the day with Soul Cakes, such as this one from Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960


Cream shortening and sugar. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of sugar has been added. Set aside. Scald milk and add to the creamed mixture. When cooled add yeast mixture and stir until thoroughly blended. Sift together flour, salt, and spices, and add gradually to other ingredients, kneading into a soft dough. Set sponge to rise in warm place in greased covered bowl. When doubled in bulk, shape into small round or oval buns. Brush tops with slightly beaten egg white. Bake in moderately hot oven (400° F.) for 15 minutes. Drop temperature to 350 ° F. and bake until delicately browned and thoroughly done.


I’m not much of a cook though.  Maybe I can talk someone else (Moe –hint hint) into helping me out with that project.  I’ll probably have to serve them at a dinner or something since I suspect that no little kid would understand or even want such a thing in their treat bag.


Yes, I think eating a soul cake while listening to the Peter Paul and Mary 1963 tune “A Soalin” would set me up for the Feast of All Souls nicely.  Here’s to all of those who have gone before.  If my prayers help, you are welcome to them.

Peter, Paul & Mary “A Soalin

Of course, they put a Christmas spin on it at the end, but no matter. I still like it.


One thought on “Feast of All Souls

  1. Apparently how you spent the vigil of All Saints depended on where you lived in Christendom. In Brittany the night was solemn and without a trace of merriment. On their “night of the dead” and for forty-eight hours thereafter, the Bretons believed the poor souls were liberated from Purgatory and were free to visit their old homes. The vigil for the souls, as well as the saints, had to be kept on this night because of course the two days were consecutive feasts — and a vigil is never kept on a feast.

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