(Originally posted last November)
One of the most common misconceptions I hear regarding the Catholic faith is the differentiation among Saints, Angels and Souls. I have too often heard someone proclaim that a deceased relative is in Heaven, or even worse, that they are an Angel in Heaven.
I also know many people who get confused as to why we pray to/for people that have died. Here's an elementary explanation (the kind my faith are built upon!) of why Catholics do what they do on All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
These are real people who have lived on Earth and died, and are confirmed to be in Heaven.
Some of these people led wonderful, holy lives and served God faithfully. Others were party animals and led sinful lives, but at some point had a great conversion and led others to do the same. A few were even martyrs...literally giving their lives for Christ. Saints are human.
They become saints through an incredibly long and thorough process in the Church, which you can read about here. Although many more people are probably in Heaven (and therefore also saints), these are the ones that we know for sure.
An angel is a Heavenly being created by God.
A human being can not become an angel as much as an orange can not become an apple. Not possible. If you die and go to Heaven, you're a saint, not an angel.
Just like saints, we can pray to the angels for their intercession. We can ask them to ask God for help. In a big company, you might not go directly to the President to ask a favor, but first ask his secretary, the Vice President, or his close co-workers. Then let them approach the Big Guy on your behalf. Same with God, get it?
Without getting too theological (because I'm not) a human is composed of a body and a soul. Our bodies die and our souls live forever. On All Souls Day, we pray for all the humans who have died, that their souls may have eternal life in Heaven.
While we would love to think that Grandma is in Heaven, God has told us not to judge. That means we should not condemn anyone to Hell nor should we put them on a pedestal in Heaven. We must continuously pray for their soul. What an injustice it is to categorize someone as a saint in Heaven and therefore no longer pray for their soul. They need our prayers, as one day we will need the prayers of the faithful.
So on Nov. 2, we pray for all the Souls...that one day they will become Saints (remembered on Nov. 1) and live with all the Angels (remembered on Sep. 29) in Heaven :)