I remember when my daughter was too shy to go trick-or-treating. I also remember her puzzlement at the disjointed connection between wearing a costume, visiting strangers, and receiving candies (which she didn't even like at the time). Now, she is well practiced in the ritual of visiting her school for a Monster Mash and trick-or-treating in the neighborhood with friends until it gets dark. She even confidently proclaims, "I think I will go trick-or-treating at least until I am in middle school."
I was surprised by two things this year. Personally, I was surprised that my daughter had forgotten the connection between Halloween (i.e. All Hallow's Eve) and All Saints Day (i.e. Halloween is the Eve of the Hallowe'd Ones). To be more precise, she was unaware that All Saints Day happens every year. Or perhaps, that our Catholic ritual concerning the Saints (and All Souls Day) is something we do every year. And perhaps it was obscured this year by falling on a Sunday.
The other surprise I had was that All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation, is usually the time that my RCIA group finally coalesces into an intentional faith-sharing group. I use the Feast to talk about the similarities and differences between taking on the faith and putting on the costume and customs of Halloween. I implore them not to just become "trick-or-treat" Catholics that are here for the sacramental goodies, but rather to dig deeper into the faith that faces death and reveals our true identities and destiny.
I also use this time to lay out the Liturgical Year, which will soon begin again in Advent. And, if we are fortunate enough, it will be during this time that perhaps some of these Inquirers in the faith might be brave enough to "knock on the door" of our parish and be welcomed into the Order of Catechumens. This too, happens every year. (I am sure my daughter remembers this because she was one of these people just two years ago).
But this year, although there are a number of children of catechetical age who are unbaptized in both the English and Spanish communities and some adults in the Spanish community, I have no adults in the English RCIA group. I do have a number of baptized Catholic adults in need of Confirmation or in need of Confirmation and Communion, but the handful of would-be catechumens that I have met since the summer has somehow dwindled and disappeared.
I have some anecdotal reasons for this. There were a number who had an affiliative relationship with our parish, but who came from farther away. When I directed them to parishes nearer to their homes or workplaces and informed them that these parishes should also be able to assist them in their Inquiry and perhaps this would be easier on their schedules, I never saw them again. I hope they did indeed find that support.
The other reason is more troubling. There are people who come with an interest in becoming Catholic because they have plans to marry a Catholic in the Church. For various reasons they may or may not have complications that they need to deal with either prior to celebrating sacraments of initiation or concurrent with the RCIA process. Sometimes they come with their own preconceived notions of what are the stumbling blocks to the process. Sometimes they hear or mishear things from their pastoral encounters with priests. Often, I can assist in making sure that they properly receive (rather than misconceive) the counsel they've been given. I have had a number of people in different circumstances. I am fairly certain all of them could have moved forward in the RCIA and know this because I discussed their situations with my pastor. And yet, their reactions were to disappear, go elsewhere, or stop searching.
Sometimes you go the extra mile.
And sometimes you find that you've walked it on your own.
This year, my daughter made it a point to invite her mom and dad to the annual Veterans Day assembly at her school. In previous years she was learning what a veteran was and thus who was supposed to be at the Veterans Day assembly. She learned that her parents were not veterans, but was surprised by who were veterans in our family. Since it cuts across ethnicity, age, geography, family relationship, it is not a relatively simple map or categorization like who is Catholic and who is Jewish, or who is a recent immigrant or where did our ancestors come from.
She has learned that veterans are people who serve their country in uniform and are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. I asked her, who else makes sacrifices? (She was silent). So I persisted, "Do YOU make sacrifices?" She insisted she didn't make such extreme sacrifices. "OK, but do you ever give something up in order to accomplish something bigger?"
She replied that she chose not to join and support her Girl Scout Troop last weekend at an activity so that she could support her Tae Kwan Do Group in an important competition. I proceeded to ask her, "Does Mommy sacrifice?" She thought about it and said "Well, I don't know exactly all the things Mommy does, so I'm not sure. But I bet she does."
I know I am a product of catholic education. SACRIFICE was one of those words we learned very early. The words like SIN and GRACE were probably in there as well. But I tend to remember the word COVENANT, which described our existence through relationship and SACRIFICE, for which I didn't need to look at the Cross in every classroom. I only needed to look at all the immigrant parents who were working so hard so that their kids could go to school.
So I am surprised that there are no Adult Catechumens this year. I am surprised my daughter didn't know ALL SAINTS DAY was every year. I am surprised that she didn't see her parents as people who sacrifice on behalf of her or on behalf of the people they serve through their work.
But I am also not the child who has grown up while the military has been this active. We live in a military town and place in time where meeting veterans coming home from mission or living out the effects of the one for which they were sent is more likely than bumping into a seminarian, or a Saint or Soul not in a Halloween costume. The question is, can we still recognize not just the sacrifice, but the covenant through which we are bonded to each other and to God?
November, you usher in autumn time
You make us think of the year's end
Life's end. Of Saints and Souls.
You also bring to mind
Service and Sacrifice
Duty and Mission
Grant us, O Lord
Our day to recognize
Who you have called us to be.
© Copyright 2015 Jay Cuasay
Photography, Fall Up! (3-photo collage), Jay Cuasay, Nov 2015. All Rights Reserved.
About the Author
Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations, and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. Jay ministered to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish for 13 years. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.