Vicksburg churches to observe All Saints Day Nov. 1

Published 2:39 pm Friday, October 15, 2021

It’s a Christian observance that goes back centuries.

All Saints Day is Nov. 1; a time when Christians across the world pay homage to those who have died before them and gone to heaven where they are closer to God.

Although the day was originally set aside to honor martyrs and saints whose exemplary lives and strong faith gave them a special relationship with God, the custom has expanded to include all who have died.

“The importance of All Saints is that it recognizes any saint,” said the Rev. Rusty Vincent, pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church. “For Catholics, we recognize all the saints that are not named in our saints book and we personally believe any saint is a person who is in heaven. It’s a way of celebrating all the souls who made it to heaven.”

All Saints Day is marked by special services honoring saints and church members who are no longer living. In the Catholic Church, All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation and Catholics are required to attend mass.

Area churches will also hold special services to remember the saints and church members who have died.

“We’ll do the service, not on All Saints Day but after All Saints,” the Rev. Sam Godfrey, rector of Christ Episcopal Church, said. “Generally, we remember those who have passed before and especially those who have passed in the past year.

“We do that at both (morning) services at 8 and 10; we make a point of remembering those who have passed in the past year but anybody who would like to offer a name of a loved one who has gone before. We always celebrate All Saints Day the first Sunday in November after All Saints.”

Other local churches will follow Christ Episcopal’s example and remember their church members Nov. 7.

“We will read the names of those who went on to glory in the past year at Crawford Street, and in doing that remember the saints of all times and all places who have gone on to be with the Lord,” said the Rev. Kevin Bradley, pastor of Crawford Street United Methodist Church. “As each name is read there will be the chiming of the bell as well as the lighting of a candle in remembrance and celebration of resurrection.”

The Rev. Austin Hoyle, pastor of Hawkins United Methodist Church, said the church will honor “the eight very committed members of Hawkins United Methodist who have gone on to be with our Lord since the last All-Saints Day” at its 10:30 a.m. service Nov. 7.

Like the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church has a book of saints, but the book also recognizes people who have lived uncommonly good lives, said the Rev. Elisabeth Malphurs, rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.

She said she also honors those who have shaped her life.

“I think we all have a group of personal saints; people who have shaped our own faith and own formations so there are probably some saints in our lives who have nurtured us in the faith,” she said. “These are people I tend to remember on All Saints Day.”

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the exact origin of All Saints Day is unknown although the Eastern Church had a feast of all martyrs on May 13.

The first evidence that Nov. 1 was designated to remember all saints, as well as all martyrs, occurred during the tenure of Pope Gregory III in the eighth century when he dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of all saints.

In 800, All Saints’ Day was kept by the scholar and priest Alcuin on Nov. 1. The observance also appeared on Nov. 1 in a ninth-century English calendar.

In 837, Pope Gregory IV ordered the general observance of All Saints on Nov. 1.

The feast of All Saints is followed by the Feast of All Souls where all Christians who have died are honored.

At St. Alban’s, Malphurs said, parishioners hold a service at the church cemetery.

“It’s our tradition to light luminaries on all the graves and read a list of the names of everybody who is in the cemetery and anyone else who died the parishioners want to remember,” she said.

“While All Saints is praying for the saints in heaven, All Souls is us praying for the souls in purgatory to help them get to their heavenly home to be saints,” Vincent said.

“If you look at it, you see the unity of all believers, all Christians, in that we on earth pray for the souls in purgatory and the saints in heaven pray for us, so like it’s all joined together.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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