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All Saints (November 1)

The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of "all the martyrs." In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagon-loads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods, and he rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. But this rededication, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Rite Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost. Why the month of November has been chosen is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on Nov. 1 in 8000, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century. Today's feast honors the obscure as well as the famous - the saints each of us have known.