Some Thoughts on All Saints’ Day — The Ways We Can Experience the Day

11.3.17 | Pulpit Posts

This week the church commemorated All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2, and now properly called All Faithful Departed) – we at Holy Apostles will transfer the commemorations to this coming Sunday, November 5. On All Saints’ Day, we remember all saints, known and unknown. But in practice, there was an increasing desire to make a distinction between the better known, exemplary saints (or Saints with a capital “S”), and those small “s” saints who are mostly unknown (such as friends and family). Hence, in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, provision was made to also remember All Faithful Departed on the day following All Saints’ Day. (Many churches combine the days, and transfer them to the nearest Sunday.)

All Saints’ began in the fourth century as a feast to remember Christian martyrs. By the ninth century, in England and Germany, it had moved to November 1, perhaps as a way to connect it to the already existing Celtic harvest festival of Samhain. The completion of the harvest and the onset of winter was a reminder of mortality, and a time when dead souls might try to return to their homes. Big bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits, while hearth fires were set and food and wine left out for the spirits of loved ones. The commemoration of All Souls’ was a natural addition to the celebration of All Saints’, with the idea that perhaps the Saints could intercede on behalf of dead loved ones who were in Purgatory. The Reformation changed many Christians’ view of All Saints’ and All Souls’, but the traditions were revived in the 19th century with the Anglo-Catholic revival.

Here is a wonderful All Saints’ prayer, from my favorite, The Celtic Wheel of the Year by Tess Ward. Which saints might you add in?!

As I rise up this morning, I invoke the spirit of the saints.
I invoke Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela that I might fight for freedom.
I invoke poor Francis and fiery Hildegard that I might honour the earth.
I invoke Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks that I might dream of justice.
I invoke Brother Roger and Mahatma Gandhi that I might seek to reconcile.
I invoke Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier that I might live with compassion.
I invoke the unnamed ones who have shown love to loveless children.
I invoke the small acts of kindness, the pots of stew left on doorstep,
the welcome of the different one, the lone voice who dares to speak out.
I invoke the devotion of unsung men and women to their fellow human beings.
I invoke the prophetic action of those who do not count the cost.
I invoke the faithfulness of those who have prayed in their little rooms
day in and day out, with no fame or fuss, and kept the world turning.
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses I invoke the Holy Spirit,
for without love, my life will be as nothing this day.

Rev. Susan Hill

Rev. Susan Hill


Stay current on activity at the Soup Kitchen, guest stories, thoughts from Clergy, news and events.

Subscribe to receive the latest news, events, volunteer opportunities, and more — right to your inbox.

Church of the Holy Apostles

We are an open, inclusive Christian Church celebrating in the Episcopal tradition.

Sunday Service is held 11AM (on site and via livestream). Weekday services are held on Zoom.


For Newcomers

Learn about our faith community and explore ways to connect with our work and worship.


Reflections on Holy Scripture from our Clergy.


Founded in 1844, with a focus on social activism and the desire for social justice.

Clergy, Staff & Vestry

The Vestry is the governing body of the Church of the Holy Apostles.


Music commands a strong presence at the Church of the Holy Apostles.

Space Rental

Host your next meeting or event in our landmark building.

Soup Kitchen & Pantry

Nourishing hungry New Yorkers since 1982 in an atmosphere of respect and hospitality.

Daily meal service

Serving a free, nutritious meal every weekday from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Meal outreach

Distributing bagged breakfasts and lunches throughout Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.

About the soup kitchen

Learn more about our mission, our history, our performance, who we are, and what we do.

Pantry Program

Providing fresh and nutritious groceries to food-insecure New Yorkers.

Sunday Supper

Bridging generations and building community over a monthly family style meal.

Social Support

Meeting basic needs, stabilizing lives, and supporting individuals and families to achieve their goals.


Addressing the needs of the whole person through basic needs, counseling, and referrals.


Offering learning and skill-building opportunities.

Community Partnership

Partnering with others to expand the services offered to our guests.

Get Involved

Holy Apostles is a great place to channel your time, talents and generosity for good.


Make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and hunger.


Join our efforts to serve others and provide for people who are vulnerable.


Your gift provides food, community, and hope to New Yorkers in need.

The Latest

Stay up-to-date on all happenings at Holy Apostles.

Food For The Soul

The official blog of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

Voices of Our Community

Guest stories, poetry, and more.


See our calendar of events.

Church Pulpit Posts

Read weekly meditations written by our clergy.


Holy Apostles in the news.