Skip to comments.Something New for Lent: Part I -- Holy Souls Saturdays
Posted on 02/21/2007 10:32:35 AM PST by NYer
AURORA Since the time of the apostles, it has been the constant teaching of the Church that prayers, offerings and good deeds can help the departed.
St. John Chrysostom said of the departed souls, Let us assist them according to our power. Let us think of some advantage for them, small though it be, but let us assist them. How and in what way? By praying for them, by asking others to pray for them, and by constantly giving (alms) to the poor in their behalf!
Most readers of The Observer are familiar with the traditions of the Western Catholic Church, which reflect the cultures of the peoples of Western Europe frequently those of German, Italian and Irish heritages. The parishes of the Diocese of Rockford are part of that western heritage. We western Catholics annually celebrate All Souls Day on Nov. 2, the day following All Saints Day.
Also connected with Rome and under the jurisdiction of the pope are the Eastern Catholic churches, which reflect the cultures of people from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. (These Catholic churches, by the way, are not the same as the Eastern Orthodox churches, which separated from Rome in the 11th century.)
Eastern Catholics keep the religious ways of the Holy Land and have a particular style of Christian living and worship that incorporates icons, vestments, candles, incense, lots of singing, physical gestures such as bowing, prostrating and crossing oneself, and blessed foods. There are two Eastern Catholic parishes located within the physical boundaries of the Diocese of Rockford, although they are part of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of St. George in Canton, Ohio. Both St. George Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church and St. Michael Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church are found in Aurora.
One Lenten tradition in the eastern Church that western Catholics can share and adapt to our own Lent is that of Holy Souls Saturdays (also called All Souls Saturdays), a custom begun in the Byzantine Church in the ninth century.
The Byzantine Liturgical Year does not have what we call All Souls Day. Instead, there are five All Souls Saturdays celebrated in and around Lent. This years first All Souls Saturday was on Feb. 10. Three more will follow during Lent, on March 3, 10 and 17, and the fifth will be on the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday (which the Byzantine church dedicates to all the departed souls since Adam).
Two of the purposes of these special Saturdays are:
-- to remind church members of their own death and make their penitential exercises during Lent more meaningful, and
-- to provide an opportunity for people to practice good deeds on behalf of their departed loved ones and renew their love for them.
How does the Eastern Church celebrate Holy Souls Saturdays? We checked with Father Frederick Peterson, OSB, a Benedictine monk and a member of Marmion Abbey, who is also pastor of St. George Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church in Aurora.
Shortly before the All Souls Saturdays began, parishioners at St. George Church were given a special offering envelope and invited to put the first names of those they wish to have remembered at those Masses in the spaces provided. Those names will be written on the diptychs, folding tablets historically made of wood, ivory or precious metals artistically decorated with carvings and bound together by rings. These registers were used since the fourth century in churches to commemorate the living and the dead at the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Church and eventually were replaced by official lists of the deceased members of individual families.
Those listed are remembered at the Holy Souls Saturdays at St. George Church, which began with the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom at 9 a.m. on Feb. 10 and included funeral rites, said Father Peterson.
How About Us?
Some concrete ideas of what to do during Great Lent were provided in a brochure at St. George Church. Very practically speaking, it says, everyone can keep certain weeks, or at least one week, in a very special way.
This concrete yet traditional suggestion (to) keep certain lenten (days) in a more careful and strict way than others is an idea that those of us in the western rite could apply to, for example, the Saturdays of Lent.
We dont have to be of the Eastern Church to benefit from the holy practice of All Souls Saturdays. Individuals can adapt the tradition to their own Lenten prayer this year, perhaps dedicating each of the Saturdays of Lent to special prayer and sacrifice for departed relatives and loved ones and for others in purgatory, perhaps for the many souls who have no one to pray for them.
Susan Tassone, author of several books about the holy souls and how to pray for them, says, By praying and making sacrifices for our suffering friends, we have the awesome power and privilege to shorten their purgatory and ours! In return, their gratitude will bring you countless blessings by their prayers, they shield their friends from many dangers and protect them from the evils that threaten them.
Inspired by the concept of Holy Souls Saturday, Tassone lists a number of activities we can do this Lent (on Saturdays or otherwise) on behalf of the Holy Souls. They include:
-- Double up on your prayers, fasting, sacrifices, good works and indulgences for your departed loved ones.
-- Teach children about praying for the holy souls.
-- Give alms on behalf of departed loved ones.
-- Arrange to have Masses offered during Lent.
-- Offer your Masses during Lent for the souls in purgatory.
-- Recite the Eternal Rest prayer before and after meals. (Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.)
-- Give the gift of a spiritual enrollment for your family.
-- Invite one new person to Mercy Sunday.
The holy souls are our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, godparents, doctors, nurses, priests, nuns all who have helped us in this life! says Tassone. Pray for them and the souls most abandoned, closest to heaven, souls of priests and religious, and the soul most like you!
Tassone has written several small books packed with prayers for the holy souls, available through Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. They include: The Rosary for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and Thirty-Day Devotions for the Holy Souls. Especially good for Lent is her The Way of the Cross for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Each book is $6.95; available in Catholic bookstores or from OSB Publishing (http://catalog.osv.com/Catalog.aspx) or call 800/348-2440.
While this diversity within the one Catholic Church can appear confusing at first, it in no way compromises the Church's unity. In a certain sense, it is a reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. Just as God is three Persons, yet one God, so the Church is 22 Churches, yet one Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this nicely:
"From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them... Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions. The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity" (CCC no. 814).
Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. A Rite is a "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony," (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). "Rite" best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite.
To learn more about the "two lungs" of the Catholic Church, visit this link:
The Vatican II Council declared that "all should realize it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve, and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition" (Unitatis Redintegrato, 15).
To locate an Eastern Catholic Church in your community, follow the following link:
A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his or her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. I am a Roman Catholic practicing my faith at a Maronite Catholic Church. Like the Chaldeans, the Maronites retain Aramaic for the Consecration. It is as close as one comes to being at the Last Supper.
Please freepmail me if you would like more information on the Eastern Catholic Churches.