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November 2 Saints of the Day – Acindynus of Persia and All Souls

On this day in 1948, President Harry Truman was re-elected in an upset over opponent Thomas Dewey, despite the next day’s Chicago Tribune headline proclaiming the opposite. Fortunately the Press learned from this not to call elections early, and hasn’t done so since.

Acindynus and CompanionsMartyrs Acindynus, Pegasias, Aphthonius, Elpidephorus, and Anempodistus (d. 345) were courtiers of King Shapur II of Persia. (Why would Persian courtiers have such eminently Greek names? Just good taste, I guess.) Shappy started persecuting Christians, and some jealous pagans outed APAE&A, who had been keeping their faith under wraps (chicken wraps, perhaps) (or not). They were of course hauled before the king to stand trial, of course confessed their faith in the Holy Trinity, and of course were sentenced to be whipped.

Shapur then made it known (via the fourth century Persian equivalent of Twitter) that the courtiers were to be beheaded, and forbade any Christians to bury their bodies. As the quintet were being led to the place of execution, a huge crowd of Christians fell in behind them, totaling about 7,000 (+/- 5). Shapur called out the reserves, and had the whole mass massacred, except Acindynus, Pegasias, and Anempodistus, whom he had burned the next day. Christians came in the night and gathered their bodies, which had been unharmed by the fire, for burial.

All Souls' Day (Le jour des morts by Bouguereau)The Feast of All Souls is celebrated today in Latin Rite Catholic Churches. (Eastern Rite and Orthodox Christians, not content with a single day to celebrate all souls, have seven, most of them Saturdays during Lent or Paschatide.) It is the third and last day of Hallowmas, which consists of All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and All Souls Day. This day (in the west) celebrates all dead Christians in Purgatory (those in heaven being “saints,” and thus commemorated yesterday). By praying for these souls, the living can help them get out of Purgatory, pass GO, and collect $200. Or attain to the Beatific Vision, which is even better. (When November 2 falls on a Sunday, the commemoration is moved to the next day.)

Although the faithful departed have been prayed for throughout Christendom from earliest times, there hasn’t always been a single day set aside for this. In the sixth century, Benedictine monasteries prayed for their departed brethren during Whitsuntide (“White as the Sun with Tide™”). In seventh century Spain, such a day was observed on the Saturday before Sexagesima (“60-year-old simian”) and/or Pentecost. October 1 was observed as a day for prayer for the departed in Germany in the tenth century. The tradition was inaugurated in Cluny in 998, and from there it spread to Liège (1008), Besançon (1053), and Milan (1025), where it was celebrated on October 15. Priests in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America were allowed to say three masses on this day for the departed, but Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) refused to allow this for the whole church, even though he was asked nicely. Pope Benedict XV (d. 1922) finally universalized the practice.

Acts of charity also being considered efficacious in springing souls from Purgatory, it became a tradition in some places (one might mention England) to give food to the poor on All Souls’ Day. Bands of roving singers (not unlike wassailers) would accost housewives with, “A soul cake, a soul cake, please good Missus, a soul cake; one for Peter, two for Paul, and three for Him that made us all,” and were rewarded with the named tasty treat. Donors might include a “soul paper” with the cake, containing names of deceased relatives they wished the recipients to pray for.

Catarinas from el dia de los muertosIn Mexico (and other places), Hallowmas is celebrated as “el dia de los muertos,” or “the day of the dead” (despite the fact that it lasts three days). Skulls and skeletons are a regular feature, as are death-mask costumes. Celebrants create altars with arrangements known as ofrendas, which include photographs of dead family members, images of saints, food, tequila, candles, and so on, either in the home or at loved ones’ gravesites. Far from being macabre, these images of death celebrate the departed faithful, and the holiday is not sad but joyful.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

This Day in History for 2nd November
Dewey Defeats Truman (Wikipedia)
Martyr Acindynus of Persia (OCA) – Main (only) source
Icon of Acindynus & companions from OCA (copyright unknown)
All Souls’ Day (Catholic Encyclopedia) – Main source
All Souls’ Day (Wikipedia)
Feast of All Souls (SQPN)
List of popes (Wikipedia)
Soul Cakes (uCatholic)
Day of the Dead Honors the Deceased (About.Com)
Day of the Dead (Wikipedia)
Ofrenda (ritual offering) (Wikipedia)
Image of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Le jour des morts (Day of the Dead) (1859) from Wikimedia (public domain) (I love Bouguereau!)
Image of Catarinas from Wikimedia used under .Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license . Use does not imply approval of owner of this page or this use.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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