A reader writes:
When I went to church for All Saint's Day, I was happy to hear the Litany of the Saints announced. But then I started hearing saints I had never heard of ...well, there are some of those. But I saw the people in the choir looking significantly at each other as they said these names, and some of them sounded like common names in our area...so I asked afterwards. It turns out that this "worship site " of my territorial parish has a custom of including the names of all the people in the parish who died in the previous year, in the litany of the saints.
I expressed some reservations about this to the priest....we don't know that these people are in heaven, we don't know their eternal fate, some might be damned although we hope not, most probably had some "time" in Purgatory during which they would need our prayers. He seemed to be upset by my statement that it was conceivable that some of these people were damned and that probably most would be in Purgatory.
What do you think of this practice?
First, it's prohibited by law. According to the Code of Canon Law,
Can. 1187 It is permitted to reverence through public veneration only those servants of God whom the authority of the Church has recorded in the list of the saints or the blessed.
Since the people who have died in your parish in the last year have not been recorded in the list of saints and blesseds by the authority of the Church (either of which listings requires the approval of the pope), they cannot be given reverence through public veneration. You can pray to them privately if you want, but not under church auspices. As the litany of the saints is a form of public veneration, including non-saints/non-blesseds in the litany of the saints is prohibited by law.
Second, doing this on All Saints Day undermines the purpose of the following day, All Souls Day. The whole point of All Souls Day is to encourage us to pray for those souls who have not been declared saints. That's why they have their own separate day. If you go and quasi-canonize them by venerating them the previous day, it works againt the purpose of the day that is devoted to them on the liturgical calendar.