Kyle Michel ponders All Souls’ Day

"All Souls Day" by Jakob Schikaneder, 1888

“All Souls Day” by Jakob Schikaneder, 1888

Earlier this week, the lady who schedules us lectors and eucharistic ministers sent out an email looking for volunteers for the Masses on All Saints Day. I wrote to her to say I could serve at the one at noon, but couldn’t do the evening Mass because of the debate.

But I had to ask her a dumb question, just to be sure: You’re talking about Wednesday, right?

As a convert, I still get confused by some stuff cradle Catholics take for granted, and the distinction between All Saints’ Day (yesterday) and All Souls’ Day (today) is one of those things.

But because we have so much to learn, we examine these things more closely. And an unexamined life, etc.

So I sort of enjoyed this email from Kyle Michel, who like me grew up Southern Baptist before marrying into a Catholic family:

All Souls Day has always been kinda intriguing to me. The idea of praying for all souls gone before you makes you wonder where the heck they’ve all gone. Maybe my Jewish friends are right – you’re here, you make your mark, you’re gone. Or, maybe there’s some kind of next stage – put whatever label you want on it. It would be hard to say that every person who has ever seen a ghost or had some paranormal experience was just imagining it. But everybody who ever died can’t be hanging around or the whole world would look like that Michael Jackson Thriller video. ​
I grew up Southern Baptist and we never had All Souls Day. According to the Baptists, there’s just no need – God’s already sorted them out, no need for further input. The Catholics have more of a Jesse Jackson approach – Keep Hope Alive! That Catholic approach seems a little better suited to a procrastinator like me – give it your best shot while you’re still breathing, but if you fall a little short, you’ve still got a chance.
Though, for Catholics, All Souls Day is still a little uncomfortable because you’re supposed to pray for all those in purgatory, which means you gotta make a call on who you think didn’t quite make it in – awkward!  At the funeral, everyone makes it in, right? Now, I gotta admit I think Uncle Freddie never made the cut!
Lucky for us, this year All Souls Day falls on First Thursday, so you can come down to Main Street and spend the evening thinking about all your dearly departed while walking among your not-yet-departed who probably still need a little prayer themselves.
If you’re out, stop by. We’ll be here at 1520 with our usual fare and selling the records of some of the souls we’re praying for – including a few of those “under-the-counter” ones that belonged to Uncle Freddie.

Kyle sends out these emails every First Thursday, inviting folks to drop by his law office on Main Street. He has the most awesome record collection I’ve ever seen outside of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, and he puts out some of his treasures out to sell from tables on the sidewalk.

You should check it out tonight. I can’t, because I’m doing another Catholic thing: I’m going to the annual Bernardin Lecture. Kristin Heyer of Boston College will speak on “Immigration Ethics in a New Era.”

6 thoughts on “Kyle Michel ponders All Souls’ Day

  1. Mark Stewart

    May I be a cynic here?

    The Jewish faith encourages people to return their wealth to the community through charity during their lifetimes. The Christian Church tended to prefer people gift their assets to the church for it to distribute as it felt needed to the community. Very different models. One can see where the church(es) would want to encourage the idea that our souls are held in purgatory after death…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You can only be the cynic if it doesn’t make Doug feel that he’s being displaced.

      To me, we have the Constitutional provision barring an established church to protect the church more than the state.

      I don’t hold to Acton’s proposition that all power corrupts, but power can corrupt under some circumstances, and wordly power is particularly corrupting to an institution that exists to be unworldly.

      However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s why the church preaches life after death. Jesus got that started before there was a church. As for purgatory, well… that’s another of those Catholic concepts that I don’t fully understand.

      I don’t think they covered it in those classes I took to join the church….

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I apologize to Lord Acton. He didn’t say ALL power corrupts — although people who cite him often seem to mean that. He said, “Power tends to corrupt…”It’s still arguable, but close to something I can agree with.

        Doug would love what he said right after the famous part: “Great men are almost always bad men.”

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, when I said above that I “grew up Southern Baptist,” that’s technically true, but not the whole story.

    I was baptized in a Baptist church, when I was in the 9th grade and living with my grandparents in Bennettsville while my Dad was in Vietnam. But that was the only full year I lived there, and for the most part the only Baptist church I attended growing up was that one, when I was visiting my grandparents. My grandfather was a deacon in that church.

    Mostly I attended generic, nondenominational Protestant services, on military bases and such….

  3. Karen Pearson

    When you try to mix the eternal with time things go badly awry. God created time (one of the dimensions we live in); he is not subject to it. Whatever sins a person may have committed, God pardons in His eternal now. I’ll not go into the theological problems surrounding purgatory.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      When I say I don’t understand purgatory, I don’t mean I don’t get the concept — I sort of do.

      What I DON’T get is the theological grounding of it — where the concept came from, and how it developed…


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