Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallows Eve - An Icon of How Faith and Culture Meet and Clash

This article has been posted on Catholic.Org
Some folks from last year's All Saints Partay

Tonight, many of the youth of my parish will be attending an All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, party.  They will be dressing up as different saints and I am sure that we will all have to try to guess who is who.  Last year one kid showed up with arrows sticking out of his chest like St Sebastian and another had an ax sticking out of the crown of his head like St Boniface.  Others were dressed donned with armor and sword like St Joan of Arc or holding a papal crozier like Blessed Pope John Paul II.  Yet for most of their contemporaries it is a night that has its origins in the pagan druid feast day that commemorated the Celtic new year, when they would dress up like gouls and banshees asking for sweets and treats to placate the lord of death and evil spirits, and have lots of bright and shiny jack-o-lanterns, which originally were a sign of a damned soul.
Pretty cheery - anybody for trick or treating?  The statistics for kids getting ran over by cars is doubled tonight more than any other night of the year.  Even more enthused?  Don't get me wrong.  Some of my happiest memories are from knocking on doors when I was a kid to get free candy.  Loved it.  However, Halloween will always be one of the feasts of the year that is an icon of that clash between the Catholic Faith and culture.  That is how it started.
In Rome it was clear that it was not possible to commemorate every martyr because there were just too many of them.  So Pope Boniface IV in 609 or 610 consecrated the Roman Pantheon as the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of All Martyrs.  Then Pope Gregory III (731-741) began the celebration of the Feast of All Saints on November 1st to commemorate all those holy men and women who, although saints of God, were not officially recognized by canonization, followed by Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extending this to the whole Church.
In the evangelization of Celtic lands, the Feast of All Hallows Eve was from the beginning a way of trying to rid the aboriginal culture of the horrible practices that the pagans practiced such as human sacrifice and burning both animals and men alive.  It was an attempt to try to Christianize the culture.  Faith must always leaven culture, and if the Church's faithful are not making the world more Christian, you can be sure that the world will be making Christians more worldly.  Do not be afraid of Halloween.  It is a moment to truly enculturate the Gospel, making the witness of All Saints to bear on a neo-pagan culture.
Sadly to this day human sacrifices are still carried out by satanic worshipers and it would be a good thing for Catholics to make prayers of reparation for these terrible acts.  Such atrocities ought to call Catholics to stand up and take their faith seriously.  The Year of Faith was called for because many within the Church, seated in the pew, seem to not allow their faith to bear fruit in the way they live on a daily basis, let alone in the way they celebrate and feast.
In the Gospel for today, Jesus says that many will say, "'Lord open the door for us.'  He will say to you in reply, 'I do not know where you are from.'  And you will say, 'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.'  Then he will say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers!'"  The mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist is where we eat and drink in the company of the Lord.  How then would Jesus say that we are evil doers?  Clearly if we eat the Lord's Most Holy Sacrament in a state infected by mortal sin, we are, as St Paul tells us (1 Cor 11:27): "Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord."  Is this not Eucharistic ignorance also a blaring icon of Catholics who have let the world influence their faith rather than letting their faith influence the world?
Don't let your Catholic faith be like a Halloween mask.  Be real.  Your eternal salvation depends on it.  Jesus tells us right there in today's Gospel, "I do not know where you are from."  Not that he is ignorant of the thoughts and intentions of our hearts, but that when our hearts do not know Jesus Christ we cease to live in the knowledge of God and the glory of union with him, and we are cast out of his presence.
The Eucharist is the source, summit, and center of authentic Catholic culture.  The Second Vatican Council (Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, 58) says: "The Gospel of Christ constantly renews the life and culture of fallen man, it combats and removes the errors and evils resulting from the permanent allurement of sin. It never eases to purify and elevate the morality of peoples. By riches coming from above, it makes fruitful, as it were from within, the spiritual qualities and traditions of every people of every age. It strengthens, perfects and restores them in Christ."
Jesus said in John 6:51, "the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the"…church choir?  folks sitting on the pew attending mass?  For what?  For the WORLD!  So obviously Jesus' sacred flesh, his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, are given to Joe Lunchbox in the pew so that he can go out and transform the world with the same transformation which has ought to have happened by him receiving Jesus Christ in holy communion and being inspired and fired up with his Word.  This is how the Eucharist you celebrate must leaven Halloween.
The Church is not going to tell you how to do that.  Neither is God.  He is too happy to let you use the head that he gave you and the will that he gave you to let you figure out what way in your sphere of influence will change the pagan sacrifices to the Holy Sacrifice of Mass lived out by people on the street.
But since you might need a kick start, here are few suggestions:
1.  Have an All Saints party.
2.  Have masses and prayers said for reparations against the Holy Eucharist on All Hallows Eve.
3.  Don't be afraid to go trick or treating.  Don't be afraid of culture.  Claim it for Jesus Christ!  Just be real about your Catholic identity and your intentions and use the occasion to teach your children how to let their faith inspire culture.  Keeping in mind the first reading for today, "bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord."
4.  Feast!  It is a feast not a fast.  Rejoice and enjoy the Catholic attitude of celebrating the supreme Love of God not just in the church, but at your dinner table and your way of living your faith at home.
5.  Blog.  Facebook.  Tweet.  Digg.  Whatever.  Preach the Gospel always and don't be afraid to preach it using words and associations the neo-pagan culture can understand.  Be careful of Halloween becoming an occasion where you become a "hater" using the media or some kind of weirdo who can't dialogue with a most people who simply see this as a time to have good clean fun.  Remember most people haven't a clue of Halloween's origins.  Show the attractive way of the Love of God.

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