Girlfriend needs to take a day off; I need to pray, play, rest and regroup – pull it together if I am going to be of any use at all for next week’s elections and its aftermath or the ongoing shenanigans all around us, so today is a good day to read and consider signing this letter to politicians, and then veg-out and consider all things Halloween-y.
To be sure, much of the business is good clean fun, what with running around visiting the neighbors, getting candy and bobbing for apples. But there’s also that other side of it, that makes people surf the web looking for creepy “Tales of the Unexplained” that are found, not on the fiction pages, but on those sites that relate some weird story of a haunting or other paranormal event with straight-faced “just the facts, ma’am” sobriety that insists the thing really happened. It’s the night where people—even jolly happy godless secularists—take a moment and wonder if, really, after all, there might just be something to this whole “supernatural” thing.
The other thing I love about All Hallow’s Eve is the next day: All Saints Day. That is a holy day of obligation that I particularly love, because there is an intimacy to it. In blustery weather, usually damp and chill, the Catholics troop to mass and remember those who came before us. It’s like spiritually visiting the graves of our beloved. We remember the stories and remember where we have come from, and that helps us to remember who we are. It helps remind us that we want to keep walking the straight, narrow path that will unite us all before the throne!
And there is something about coming out of that mass and looking around; there is at autumn in full swing – the leaves baring, showing upraised arms that look like our prayers of supplication; there are the busy people in busy cars, zooming by indifferently, and somehow I feel so connected to all of the trees and all of the people. I feel at one with them, privileged to have been able to stop, remember and pray, in and for a world so busy, so indifferent, and so nakedly needful. I step out of the All Saints Day mass and feel a oneness that makes me feel, for however briefly it lasts, a keen and wistful love for the whole world.
I hope you can make it to mass on All Saints Day–even if your bishop has dispensed with the obligation, because it falls on a Monday (!)–so you will taste a little of that. Meantime, let’s have some Halloween focus!
Bishop Kevin Farrell writes at his blog:
In the Middle Ages there was a popular belief that on All Souls Day the souls in Purgatory could appear on earth as will-o-the-wisps, witches, ghosts and all sorts of things to those people who had wronged them during their lifetimes. At some point, these customs slipped into the All Saints Celebration called Halloween.
So this weekend when the little ghoulies and ghosties are out they remind us of the suffering souls in Purgatory who need our prayers.
Tim Dalrymple on spooky Harry Potter!
That reminds me, I still think Harry needed to die in Book 7:
Christ moved the narrative of the world, too. The narrative movers rarely get to live out an ordinary sort of life once things have shifted – more often than not, they die. Resurrection is uncommon.
Aggies Catholics: What has happened to Halloween?
Frank Weathers: Remembering the Martyrs of Douai College:
Top Ten Ways: to have a Catholic Halloween
Strolling with the kid and encountering mystery:
Perhaps Christianity chased the gods and sprites away, or forced them to assume different forms, but it never did so entirely. And, after all, Paul never suggested that the elemental powers or ethereal principalities were illusions; he merely claimed that they had been made subject to Christ. The author of Colossians even seems to say that they have now been reconciled to God. As for the Enlightenment, whatever one imagines that might be, on this issue it marks not an advance from ignorance to understanding, but only a mutation of conceptual paradigms.
We are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses” Paul’s letter to the Hebrews (12:1) tells us. We don’t often make room for the honoring of ancestors or valuing what connection to the stories of our past might bring to us. For me, honoring the Communion of Saints means recognizing that the lives lived before mine matter. It means remembering that there is ancient wisdom wrought from generations of engagement and struggle with life. We can call upon those who have confronted the great mystery of being across time.
Pagan writer Star Foster takes a look at Halloween from a very different perspective, although she too notes the remembrances of the day with similar language and sentiment:
We’ve sanitized the whole idea and process of death in this age. We no longer prepare our loved ones’ bodies, dig their graves, or even keep the grave tidy and clean. We pay people to do these things so we never have to deal with the palpable reality of death. We remove ourselves from the experience. We keep photos and move on, essentially keeping the dead divorced from our lives. We tell ourselves it’s healthy to move past the dead and forward into the future.
Yet it is our past that gives us strength. Think of all the ancestors who live in your DNA, contributing their genes to create the highly unique expression of humanity that you are. Think of the traditions, decisions, battles, and ideas that have shaped your life which originate from those long ago passed away. Even if you choose not to honor those who have gone before, the dead are with you every day.
A good reason to pray the litany of saints!
Inside Catholic has a slew of Halloweeny links
John Zmirak, at Inside Catholic
Halloween provokes contention among American Christians to this day. Some homeschooling friends of mine confessed to me that they felt torn over whether or not to let their son dress up and go trick-or-treating; their Protestant friends kept telling them that this holiday was pagan or even Satanic. And given their theology, you can see their point: The souls of the dead are either in Heaven — in which case they’re not walking the earth and need not be appeased, represented, mocked, or even commemorated, depending on which reading you give to the way we Catholics appropriated old pagan customs that marked this time of year– or else they’re in Hell, and not worth remembering. Anyone who’s dead and suffering deserves it, and will go on suffering forever. There’s no sense in attracting his attention.
We, on the other hand, picture the Church in three unequal slices: a golden sliver, already enjoying beatitude; we dung-spattered soldiers still slogging through the trenches here on earth; and the vast military hospital where most of us hope to end up, a very big tent indeed where souls heal from the damage they did themselves on earth and are made whole enough to be welcomed into Heaven. When we do ourselves up in costumes and tromp through the streets on Halloween, we are marching in a kind of Veterans’ Day Parade in honor of the sinners who went before us, not yet into glory but into the painful, therapeutic shadow it casts outside its doors.
Also, Fr. James Martin on All Saints Day
Msgr Charles Pope: has more:
Part of the reason that I see it as harmless fun is rooted in my experience. Back when I was a kid in the 1960s and early 1970s we would often dress in ghoulish costumes and attempt to look as frightening as possible. One year I went about as a skeleton. My grandfather, who was a doctor had an plastic skeleton of a hand that was very realistic. I would hold it in my hand and pull my shirt over my real hand. It was so real looking that people often wondered if my hand was horribly injured for real. Another year I was a zombie. Another year a ruthless pirate. There were a few years where I dressed more mildly as an astronaut and a Navy officer. But it was all good fun. Even in the ghoulish years it never occurred to me that the “dark side” was attractive or that devil worship was in my future.