Today, November 1, the Catholic Church solemnly marks All Saints Day.   In Malta and Gozo it is not a holy day oSolemnity of All Saints’ Dayf obligation, but it is a deeply kept local tradition to attend church and take part in the festive Mass of the day.

Today’s festivity honours all the saints of the Church, both those whom we know by name like the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St George, as well as those whose names we do not know.   This festivity started to be kept by command of 8th cent. pope Gregory III but it had its origins earlier in 609 when Pope Boniface IV accepted, as a gift from the Emperor Phocas, the Pantheon of Rome and dedicated it as the church of Santa Maria Rotonda in honour of the Blessed Virgin  and all martyrs.

Individual commemorations of martyrs on their dies natalis (on their day of birth; unto heaven, as their inflicted death was perceived) actually began to be celebrated in the early 4th century, after the great persecution (303-314). The first trace of a general celebration of martyrs is attested in Antioch on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) after Pentecost. This custom is maintained to the present day in the Eastern Orthodox Church.  The Western Church’s November 1 as a fixed day for the celebration of all the saints was determined by Pope Gregory III (731-741).

Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day.  Mass times at St George’s will be also according to the Sunday schedule with the addition of Mass celebrations during the afternoon hours, that is at 1.00, 2.00, 3.00 and 4.00pm.  This means that one can attend Mass on the hour from 5.00am to 7.00pm without interruption.