I was out shopping the other day, and realized that it’s already begun. Entire aisles filled with orange and black packaged candy, costumes galore, and accessories for home and hearth that all scream fun and festivity with a helping of gore and fright on the side...but, why? Why on earth do we celebrate Halloween? And what does this day mean to us as Catholics?
According to Scott P. Richert, the Catholicism expert at About.com, Halloween does not have pagan origins. The word “Halloween” is simply a contraction of “All Hallows Eve” which points to the solemnity of All Saints Day on November 1. Pope Gregory III instituted the feast and the vigil in the early eighth century.
Opposition to Halloween actually began as anti-Catholic attacks. Some falsely tried to associate the feast with the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, even though the timing of the celebrations was the only element they originally held in common. There have been times in our history that Christmas and Halloween have even been outlawed by non-Catholic governments. Today, commercialism is our worst enemy as it downplays the Christian roots of the feast and thrives on the gore and fright factor. (See http://catholicism.about.com/od/thecatholicfamily/p/Halloween.htm)
All of this information leaves me thinking, “How can we, as Catholics, reclaim Halloween for what it truly is?”
Halloween is a time to celebrate our Church family. But our Church family is not just those we share a pew with in Mass or laugh with at the parish picnic. Our Church family transcends time and earthly existence.
“‘What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?‘ The communion of saints is the Church.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 946
I love my Catholic faith deeply, and I will go to great lengths to promote and defend it. But we all suffer from periods of doubt at times. We are all vulnerable to the darkness of the devil. Sometimes I think it is those who have the deepest faith that he likes to taunt the most.
But God has given us a great gift with His Church. The gift of the saints, united in communion with the Eucharist. Saints on earth, saints undergoing their final purification in purgatory, and saints in heaven. And in times of doubt, we ask those great saints in heaven to pray for us. They are closest to God. Their souls are pure. They are the perfect intercessors for our needs. They know exactly how to present our requests to the one mediator, Jesus Christ.
“So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” CCC 956
This is the beauty of All Hallows Eve that we must pass on to our children. When they learn the great benefits of asking the intercession of the saints, they will not only be strengthened themselves, but so, too, will the entire communion of the Catholic Church be strengthened. Our prayers to the saints strengthen those in our Church family across the globe who are undergoing persecution. It fills them with hope of the heavenly promise, and fills them with the fullness of love that only family can provide.
Enjoy trick-or-treating and carve a pumpkin, but emphasize to your children the importance of attending Mass on All Saints Day and praying for our deceased on All Souls Day. Pray to St. Michael the Archangel before heading out on Halloween night, that we might be protected from getting caught up in the secular view of the holiday. Throw an All Saints Day party. Write down the names of your beloved deceased in a family prayer intention journal. Remind your children that the saints are the reason for this season.
Check out these resources for some All Saints Day party ideas:
How does your family find balance between Halloween and All Saints Day?
Copyright 2014, Charisse Tierney
About the Author
Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist in training. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.