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The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass. (See PURGATORY.)
In the early days of Christianity the names of the departed brethren were entered in the diptychs. Later, in the sixth century, it was customary in Benedictine monasteries to hold a commemoration of the deceased members at Whitsuntide. In Spain there was such a day on Saturday before Sexagesima or before Pentecost, at the time of St. Isidore (d. 636). In Germany there existed (according to the testimony of Widukind, Abbot of Corvey, c. 980) a time-honoured ceremony of praying to the dead on 1 October. This was accepted and sanctified by the Church. St. Odilo of Cluny (d. 1048) ordered the commemoration of all the faithful departed to he held annually in the monasteries of his congregation. Thence it spread among the other congregations of the Benedictines and among the Carthusians.
Completed text should be ready for implementation by Advent of O8 (although I had heard elsewhere that it would be Advent 09). From EWTN:
The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) is releasing the draft of the English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal to bishops in English-speaking countries today.
Known as a “Green Book” for the color of its cover, the draft translates the Latin version of the Missal that was published in 2002. The Missal is the official book used by priests to celebrate the Mass.
In a letter announcing the release, Bishop of Leeds Arthur Roche, chairman of the ICEL commission, mentioned that he had solicited comments from bishops of the various bishops’ conferences, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and their advisers.
Emphasizing the importance of the consultation process, Bishop Roche expressed gratitude towards those who had commented: “A wide range of issues, both theological and linguistic, have been brought to the attention of the Commission, who in response have sought to shape texts that will meet the needs of the worldwide English-speaking Catholic community,” he said.
From Pope Benedict XVI:
Sainthood is not a “privilege” reserved to “the elected few”; “becoming a saint is the duty of every Christian, what’s more, of every human being!”. On the day the Church celebrates the feast of All Saints, before reciting the Angelus Prayer with pilgrims in St Peter’s square, Benedict XVI explained sainthood, often considered to be a moral ideal attainable to very few, or even as a something defunct and useless for mankind of our day. “At a very basic level – the pontiff explained – [holiness] lies in living as sons and daughters of God, in the “likeness” of He who created us”. And he added: “All human beings are children of God, and everyone must become what they are, through the exacting journey towards freedom. God invites us all to belong to his holy people. The “Way” is Christ, the Son, the Holy of God: no-one reaches the Father if not through Him (cfr Gv 14,6)”.
The pope also recalled that “at the very beginnings of Christianity, the members of the church were called ‘the saintly’, indicating the reality and the destiny of all faithful: “a Christian, in fact is already holy, because Baptism unites him to Christ and to the Pascal Mystery, but at the same time he has yet to become holy, by conforming himself more intimately to Christ”.
This feast, which helps “our heart” to overcome “the confines of space and time” to the “heavenly dimensions”, is closely linked to the Commemoration of all of the Churches’ faithful departed, the day – celebrated on November 2nd – when the church throughout the world dedicates its prayer for the souls of the dead. “Our prayers in praise of God and of the blessed spirits, who today’s liturgy presents to us as ‘great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue’ (Rv 7,9), unite themselves to our prayers in suffrage of all of those who have gone before us from this world to eternal life. Tomorrow we will dedicate our prayers to them in a special way and we will celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice for them. In truth, every day the Church invites us to pray for them, to offer us our daily fatigue and sufferance so that, completely purified, they are admitted to enjoy the eternal light and peace of the Lord”.
Benedict XVI recalled the attention of the many faithful gathered in prayer beneath the rain, to the fact that “at the centre of the assembly of the Saints, shines the Blessed Virgin Mary, ‘humble and high, more than a creature’ (Dante, Paradiso, XXXIII, 2)”. “Placing our hand in hers – the pontiff concluded – we feel animated to continue with renewed zeal on our journey towards sainthood. We entrust our daily commitment to Her and to Her today we also entrust our prayers for the faithful departed, in the intimate hope that one day we will find ourselves gathered together, in the glorious communion of the saints”.