How one ‘All Souls’ congregation marks today, tomorrow

If you go to a St. Paul’s, say, or a St. Luke’s, mixing a patronal feast is a snap: transfer the day on your church calendar if need be, stir in the readings from the proper of a saint, plug in the appropriate verse from “By all your saints still striving,” and you have due celebration.

But for those whose congregations are named after more inclusive pursuits, marking and remembering a feast can require something else altogether.

Today and tomorrow being All Saints and All Souls, respectively, we found ourselves wondering how an “All Souls” congregation would conduct worship on this first Sunday and Monday of November. All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., gave us a hint.

On this day, we especially remember the saints we have known and loved, those who have died and joined the Communion of Saints. The mood is more reflective and introspective. This year we are particularly blessed to have the choir sing the settings of the Mass by Joan Brudieu (ca. 1520–1591). After communion and the usual blessing, the choir sings In paradisum while the priest and acolytes process to the columbarium….

The columbarium is then blessed with a prayer (which extends beyond our own little space and time to also include all of those who we have loved and who have died) and then they choir sings a final kyrie, just before the dismissal.

At both Masses on All Saints’ Sunday and at the All Souls’ Mass on Monday, we follow the old tradition of praying aloud the names of our beloved who have died. It is with joy, with thanksgiving, and with faith that we offer our celebrations in the spirit of the Collect of the Day for All Saints’, which captures well the intention of these days: “Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou has prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee.”

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