All Souls’ Day: Meaning, Celebration, Prayers

On November 2, the day after the feast of All Saints' Day, Christians honor all those who have died. Commonly called “Day of the Dead”, this feast takes the name of “Commemoration of the Deceased Faithful” for Christians.

What is the origin and meaning of this feast day? How do Christians celebrate the dead? How to pray to those who have passed away?

Get ready for the day of the dead with this 30-day journey:

What is All Souls’ Day for Christians?

Origin and significance of All Souls’ Day

The tradition of a commemoration of the dead already existed among the Jews, then among the first Christians, in the form of prayers and masses said for the deceased.


The celebration of an “office of the dead” dates back to the 10th century: Odilon, abbot of Cluny, instituted a day of commemoration of the deceased faithful, on November 2, 998. Following this, Pope Leo IX introduced this feast into the Roman liturgy: the day of the dead then became a universal feast for the Catholic Church.


Celebrated in the light of All Saints' Day, the feast of All Souls’ Day has a very special meaning for Christians: that of eternal life and the resurrection of the dead! On this day, the Church reaffirms the great mystery of the Christian faith: that of Christ, the conqueror of death and sin!


About the day of the dead, a martyrologist from Solesmes said: “This is the Day when the Church intercedes for her members who are asleep in death and who suffer in a final purification before entering Glory”.

The difference between All Saints' Day and the commemoration of the dead

On November 1, a public holiday in many countries, it is customary to put flowers on graves on All Saints' Day, as evidenced by the piles of chrysanthemums you’ll see adorning graves on that day.


However, the Catholic Church has instituted two separate dates to differentiate the feast of All Saints, celebrated on November 1, from the feast of the commemoration of the deceased faithful, celebrated the next day.


Thus, though the feast of All Saints joyfully celebrates all the saints in heaven, already in glory, the commemoration of the deceased invites us rather to remember all those who have died, in order to pray for the salvation of their souls and for them to intercede for us. 

Celebrating the Commemoration of the Deceased Faithful, November 2

Day of the Dead Liturgy

The day of the dead is celebrated with the Mass of the Deceased Faithful, during which we pray for all the deceased, as well as for the souls in purgatory. The Mass allows the purification of venial sins so that the deceased can reach the beatific vision.


The profound meaning of the feast of All Souls is defined as: “The Holy Mother Church, attentive to render worthy praise to all her children who enjoy the happiness of heaven, hastened to intercede with God for the souls of all those who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, but also on behalf of all men since the creation of the world, of whom the Lord alone knows the faith, so that, with the help of instant prayers, they may enter the community of the inhabitants of heaven and enjoy the vision of eternal happiness.” (Roman Martyrology)

Reading the Mass of All Souls

The Gospel of the Mass of November 2 highlights our hope in eternal life through the words of Christ: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:37-40)


The second reading, meanwhile, leads us to the meditation on the resurrection of the dead, on the last day: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

Praying for the Dead on All Souls’ Day

“God of spirits and of all flesh, who trampled underfoot death, who reduced the devil to nothing and who gave your life to the world; give yourself, Lord, to the soul of your servant (name the deceased). Rest in a bright, green and fresh place, away from suffering, pain and groaning. May the good and merciful God forgive him all his sins committed in word, deed and thought. Because there is no man who lives and does not sin; you alone are without sin, your justice is justice for ever and ever and your word is truth. O Christ our God, since you are the Resurrection, the life and the rest of your deceased servant (name the deceased), we give you thanks with your uncreated Father and with your most holy, good and life-giving Spirit, today and for ever and ever. Amen. May they rest in peace. Amen.”

Excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Appendix


Find many other prayers for the deceased in the prayer guide.

With Hozana, pray for the dead

November 2 is an opportunity to pray especially for all the deceased of our families, our friends, and for the souls in purgatory. However, we can entrust them to God's mercy at any time of the year! Follow Hozana's prayer communities to prepare and entrust all your loved ones:  


  • Pray for the souls in purgatory in the company of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.
  • Join us for nine days of prayers with St. Alphonsus Liguori for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, to lessen their suffering and hasten their entrance into Heaven.

Join a community to remind yourself of the wonders of Divine Mercy.