Basilica neglects All Souls’ Day Requiem Mass

November is an amazing month in the Church’s liturgical year. In this month the Church concludes her liturgical year with the great Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. She then enters again into her season of penitential waiting for that same King as Advent begins. Yet, the beginning of this month also provides us a great deal of liturgical excellence. In fact, the beginning of November served as a wonderful reminder of the Church as a collective family and the relationship between Church Suffering, Church Militant, and the Church Triumphant.

The month started on its first day with the Solemnity of All Saints. On this feast, the Church remembers the saints of the Church Triumphant who now reside in Heaven and enjoy participation in the Trinity. This is a day of great rejoicing. This day is one filled with happiness at knowing that we have so many brothers and sisters who now enjoy the Divine Life.

The next day, November 2, is not quite as joyous. On this day we celebrated the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, also known as All Souls’ Day. On this day Holy Mother Church reminds us of her suffering children who are being cleansed in the purifying fires of Purgatory. These Holy Souls are those which are eagerly awaiting the time when they have been washed clean of the stain of venial sins in which they died  and are permitted to enter the fullness of eternal life in Heaven to become themselves members of the Church Triumphant.

Holy Mother Church, being the caring mother that she is, holds this annual Commemoration to remind her militant children that they are called to fight, to intercede for their suffering siblings just as their saintly siblings intercede for them. A mother wants her children to get along and be together, so she offers periodic reminders to them to pray for each other and aid each other on the journey to salvation.

So important is this to Holy Mother Church that she even makes special liturgical exceptions for All Souls’ Day. One exception is that priests are permitted to offer more than their one daily Holy Mass on this day. In fact, they are allowed to offer three Masses on this day: one for all the souls in Purgatory, one for a soul of their choosing, and one for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

The second exception is even more striking. That is, when All Souls’ Day falls on a Sunday, then Requiem Masses (Masses for the Dead) can be offered instead of Masses with the proper prayers of the Sunday. Holy Mother Church holds the praying for souls as one of the greatest duties to be carried out. And, when All Souls’ Day falls on a Saturday, as it did this year, each church has an option of either offering Requiem Masses in the morning and then a Vigil Mass for the Sunday, or to only offer Requiem Masses that day, even in the evening. Though the Requiem Mass of All Souls’ Day would be offered in the evening, it would still fulfill the Sunday obligation if it was offered at or after the time of a normal Vigil Mass.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the University of Notre Dame experienced an even greater solemnity on November 2nd this year: a home football game. In keeping with the home football Mass schedule, the only Mass offered at the Basilica this year on All Souls’ Day was a half-hour after the end of the game. And this Mass was offered for the Sunday in Ordinary Time. (The other Masses on campus would have followed the Basilica’s lead, as it is the center of liturgy on campus.)

It seems curious that the Basilica would not either add an extra Requiem Mass or change the Vigil Mass to a Requiem Mass. Especially since a basilica is meant to be a place of pilgrimage, “the celebrations of the liturgical year” are, according to Domus Ecclesiae, “to be prepared and carried out with great care,” so that the faithful can participate in the most important feasts of the Church.

The failure to pray for the souls of the Faithful Departed at a Requiem Mass this year seems especially distressing when our campus is blessed to have two separate cemeteries and given the fact that the founding religious order of our university is the Congregation of Holy Cross. Its motto, Ave Crux Spes Unica, hails the same Cross and Death which opened the path to hope for salvation.

In a basilica as beautiful as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, it is a sad fact that there was, this year, an absence of black vestments and the famed Dies Irae. It is sad that the Basilica failed in its duty to promote “the active participation of the faithful” in praying for their brothers and sisters in the Church Suffering (Domus Ecclesiae), and to remind them through the striking music of the Requiem Aeternam and Dies Irae and the breathtaking black vestments that we are to mourn and pray for our suffering spiritual siblings.

While their salvation is not dependent upon our prayers, they can be sped through the purification process as a result of our prayers. And, further, the faster they reach Heaven, the sooner they can intercede for us as saints in constant adoration of the Lamb.

The final words of the Code of Canon Law are these: “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes” (Can. 1752). Unfortunately, it seems as though this year, the eyes of the Basilica were blinded by the lights of the jumbotron and lost sight of its purpose: to help save souls.

It failed in reminding the faithful that, as members of the Church Militant, they are called to pray especially for the poor souls of the departed in a special way during the month of November, and most especially on All Souls’ Day. By not offering a Requiem Mass for these souls, the Basilica itself failed to set a good example.

Patrick Gouker is a sophomore hailing from Knott Hall. He is greatly disappointed to see Halloween pass for another year, but is eager to enter into hot cocoa season. He can be reached at