All Saints Day is 1,400-year tradition

Carlos Lombas, a Morgan City city employee, cleaned gravesites Thursday afternoon in the Morgan City Cemetery on Railroad Avenue prior to an approaching rain shower. (Photo by Courtney Darce)

The celebration now known as All Saints Day formally began to be recognized by the Catholic church around 1,400 years ago in Rome at the Pantheon to remember the early martyrs of the church.
The formal celebration of the holiday began around 609 or 610 A.D. at the Pantheon, the Rev. Bill Rogalla of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Bayou Vista said. 
“The Holy Father sent relics to early martyrs and consecrated it at the Catholic church. And that was the beginning of the church formally starting to look at All Saints Day,” Rogalla said. Catholics remember their hope for heaven, and each day is a stepping stone for eternity, he said.
Rogalla visited Rome six years ago and was able to pray at the Pantheon. “Knowing that this is where it formally started, and eventually spread out to the whole church, for me, it’s a special thing in that sense,” Rogalla said. Visiting the Pantheon gave him a different perspective on the holiday, he said. 
All Saints Day reminds people that they are not made for this life, but instead they are “made to be with God in the hereafter in his eternal glory,” Rogalla said. “He gives us all the grace and all the help we need to help each other get there by the grace of Christ in God.”
For Catholics, the church is divided into three entities; the church militants who are people on Earth trying to follow Christ, church suffering who are people in purgatory, and the church triumphant who are the saints in heaven.
On All Saints Day, Catholics remember all who have passed away, and “hope to be reunited again in God’s glory,” Rogalla said. “How we live our life here is how our life will be in the hereafter as far as either with Christ or away from Christ.”
On All Saints Day, the church remembers specific saints, such as, Padre Pio who was recently made a saint, Rogalla said. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII are going to be formally declared saints next year. “We have individual saints, but this is for all of them that have made it to heaven,” he said. 
The celebration includes saints the church formally recognizes as well as the ones it does not, which could be someone’s great-grandmother, brother, or little sister who died, Rogalla said. “Every family that’s had a miscarried child has a saint in heaven.”
The All Saints Day services include regular Mass, but also the grace of attending Mass for the souls in purgatory, Rogalla said. Following All Saints Day is All Souls Day on Saturday. The church also has an indulgence associated with that day.
All Souls Day is for the people who are on their way to heaven while All Saints Day is for people who are already there.
“We never forget our dead,” Rogalla said. On All Souls Day, Catholics remember the church suffering, the church in purgatory, and pray for everybody, Catholic and non-Catholic, he said.
The church has never formally declared anyone being in hell, he said. “Even though we know hell exists, and we know people go to hell … we still always hold out the hope. We don’t even say that Judas is in hell,” Rogalla said.
Priests also bless the cemeteries on All Saints Day, and pray for the dead who are never forgotten, he said. 
All Souls Day recognizes souls that are in a place where they have to do what is necessary to be purified “to go into the full glory of God. If they can’t help themselves, we help them.” Catholics help those souls with prayers, good works, and alms giving, Rogalla said.
Priests also bless the cemeteries on All Saints Day, and pray for the dead who are never forgotten, he said. 
St. Bernadette Catholic Church will hold a special All Saints Day Mass at 6 p.m. today. The church also held special services Thursday night and around noon today. 

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