The meaning of the feast of All Saints

Every year on November 1, Catholics celebrate the feast of All Saints. What does that mean? We Dutch used to also get a day off, but that time is over. However, the celebration has not become any less important. For believers, heaven is the ultimate goal, so when we achieve that, there is something to celebrate. We earthly mortals like to celebrate that festival, hoping to end up there sooner or later.


When we Catholics pray in our confession of faith: I believe in the communion of saints, we are not referring, consciously or not, to the souls in heaven, but to the original meaning of the term saints. In the Acts of the Apostles we read how Paul addresses the saints while addressing those around him who are still alive. In early Christianity, every believing and baptized soul was a saint. That has changed now.

Militant Church

When the Creed talks about a communion of saints, it is talking about the existence of an exchange between the different groups of baptized souls who possess the Holy Spirit. This includes, first of all, all baptized souls who struggle against their sins and errors; we call this the militant Church. Church with a capital letter, because it is not about the building, but about the community of believers who together form the Church. If we commit a mortal sin, while we remain a member, we are cut off from this fellowship of saints as long as we keep the Holy Spirit out of our souls by not confessing our sins.

Suffering Church

The souls in purgatory are also members of the community of saints. They still need to be cleansed of their sins and debts. They cannot yet see God, but the Holy Spirit is in them. They are called the Suffering Church because they must patiently wait until their souls are purified and in a state of grace to see God. They cannot do anything themselves to shorten this wait. They did not put in enough effort during their lifetime to earn the divine righteousness of Jesus, and now it is too late for that. We can help them by praying for them, earning indulgences for them and having masses said. We do not know whether the suffering souls can pray for us, but if they have reached heaven, partly through our efforts, they will certainly remember us in their prayers and be our special intercessors before God.


According to Catholic teaching, you are punished for your sins in order to purify the soul and restore moral order and the honor of God. This is the only way you get to heaven. However, you can have your punishments remitted by God by earning an indulgence. This is possible for yourself or for souls in purgatory who can no longer do this, since we as believers are connected to each other. The indulgence means that the church allows the good deeds of Jesus and the saints to cancel this punishment. First, however, the sin must be confessed with contrition, including a firm determination not to commit it again. How can someone earn an indulgence so that his sin is revoked? For example, the Pope can decree that anyone who passes through a holy door during the Year of Mercy deserves an indulgence.


Finally, there are the souls in heaven – not just the canonized saints! -: the triumphant Church, which remains eternal. At the final judgment the suffering Church is added. The communion of the saints implies that all souls must be aware of the needs and wants of other souls. This is especially true of the triumphant souls over the militant and the suffering souls, and of the militant souls over the suffering souls. Since the souls in purgatory cannot help themselves, they have to rely on the help of the saints and the militant souls.

all Saints Day

For the saints, the fact that they have reached the highest does not mean that they have promptly forgotten the other souls. As ultimate friends of God, out of perfect love for Him, they want to help all His creatures to also reach heaven. And for us earthly souls, we do not only have to pray to the saints to implore their help, but can also praise and honor them in our prayers as creatures of God. Just as we praise an artist by admiring his work of art. In addition to the days that the Church dedicates to specific, canonized saints, she also dedicates one day to all other saints. That is All Saints’ Day on November 1.


It is clear that we may cherish a truly supernatural love for one another, and that we may practice, in word and thought, the virtue of brotherly/sisterly charity, especially in the practice of our spiritual and material works of mercy.