All Saints, All Souls, and Cemetery Sunday: What are the differences?

While many of us “cradle Catholics” have grown up with the expectation of attending Mass the day after Halloween in observance of All Saints Day, I’m sure that there are some of us, myself included, that never really stopped to ask why All Saints Day was a holy day of obligation. Even more so, I was never aware that there are two other major Catholic observances in the month of November: All Souls Day and Cemetery Sunday. While all related, these three days are actually quite different, and each offers its own special intention. Keep reading to learn more about these three holy days, how they’re different, and how you can celebrate them.


cemetery sunday


All Saints Day (November 1st)

As I mentioned, All Saints Day (officially named Solemnity of All Saints) is the most well-known of the three November observances. All Saints Day is meant to be a celebration of the souls that are currently in Heaven. These souls include both known saints recognized by the church, and those that are unknown. Being a Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints Day is celebrated with a special Mass.

All Souls Day (November 2nd)

Not to be confused with All Saints Day, All Souls Day is a day dedicated to souls who are not in Heaven. This day is a chance for those of us here on Earth to offer prayers and intentions for those souls in purgatory– that they may find eternal peace and rest in the Kingdom of Heaven. While not a holy day of obligation, All Souls Day is an opportunity for all Catholics to pray for our departed brothers and sisters.

Cemetery Sunday (First Sunday in November)

Cemetery Sunday, while closely related to All Saints and All Souls Day, is rather unique. Proposed by the National Catholic Cemetery Conference in 1978, the day focuses on the physical location where souls are laid to rest: the cemetery. Catholic cemeteries are sacred ground, as they are blessed upon their founding, and they are treated as an extension of the Church itself. Therefore, Cemetery Sunday is a day dedicated to those buried in a Catholic cemetery. The day is normally celebrated with a special Mass on cemetery grounds. Cemetery Sunday is a spiritual way to honor family members who have passed, and provides families with a special opportunity to visit the graves of their dearly departed loved ones.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association will be celebrating Cemetery Sunday on November 3rd, 2019.  Mass will be said at 3pm. Click here for more information:


For more information, please email Rhonda Abrams at

Post written by Katie Karpinski

The Hole

The days are getting shorter, the air is a bit cooler and the smells of fall are everywhere. The stores are filled with Halloween decorations and costumes. Our daily activities dominate our lives and distract us from so many other things happening around us. Many of us will look back on this past summer and remember a great vacation and other grand adventures but for some this summer will carry a different set of memories. Some are dealing with the recent loss of someone they love; a hole created by death that can never be filled.

News of the death of someone we love has different levels of emotional trauma. When it is a child, regardless of the age of the child, the trauma a parent experiences is beyond anything we can measure. The devastation is overpowering and causes such indescribable numbness that some are unable to see how they can survive to the next day. The news of a grandparent is also traumatic but when the deceased had recently celebrated their 100th birthday, everyone expected that one day soon the call would come. We are both traumatized by the loss and grateful for the time we were given. In either situation, those who have faith know that this separation is temporary and it is in our Catholic Cemeteries where the hope of our reunion comes alive.

Fall is the time when we celebrate Cemetery Sunday which is in conjunction with All Souls Day. We celebrate the mass to remember the deceased and pray for them. It is the time that we are reminded of the promise Jesus made to us in those days leading up to His ultimate sacrifice. While there are many sacred places, it is only in a Catholic cemetery where our Catholic faith is fully acknowledged.

Our faith gives us hope and in our Catholic cemeteries we find a truly sacred place to remember the person whose loss has left a hole in our life. It is in our Catholic cemetery where we find that the hole is a bit less painful, because we come to believe in the promise of paradise.

Each of us might reflect on where we would have stood on that very first Good Friday. What would we have done if we had been part of that crowd watching as a man wearing a crown of thorns and a makeshift royal cloak was presented to us for sentencing? Today we know what He did for us without hesitation but where would we have been then?

Today we can reflect on the promise He made and have hope that with our final breath He will be waiting for us along with all those who we loved while traveling along a faith filled path toward paradise. I see in our Catholic cemeteries only hope that our faith will be fulfilled on the last day when the promise made will finally be kept.

When we kneel at the grave of our loved one, their death causes us to grieve but it is the promise that gives us comfort in the knowledge that this separation is only temporary.