The faithful were reminded of the call to sainthood as well as the reality of death and Purgatory. This thought continues to unite us struggling saints on earth with those in glory and those being purified in Purgatory. The full and complete Body of Christ! Oct. 31 served as the Church’s preparation for both feast days. These were days of remembrances of deceased loved ones. Family members anticipated both days, and they were celebrated in fitting manner. Happily, these days have retained their significance.
Suppression of All Hallows' Eve
In 1955, All Hallows’ Eve was stricken from the Church calendar. Halloween has retrieved its pagan character with public safety measures in place if vandalism should occur and often does. As if to recall evil spirits, the mediocre orchestral piece, “Danse Macabre,” by Camille Saint-Saëns, is traditionally played on Halloween. The tinny, clunky, off-key “devil’s interval” is sounded throughout the composition. So is Halloween really harmless fun? What are we teaching our children through it?
All Hallows’ Even and Contemporary Christianity
Although the pagan cult of witches, devils, dry bones, oversized cats, or other images continue to dominate the environment, the Church should engage the culture as it did centuries ago. All Hallows’ Eve can be restored to its religious meaning as a better alternative to what we have today.
Today in some dioceses, children of grade school ages are encouraged to combine a celebration of All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.
With the help of parents, teachers, and/or catechists, they can find success stories of the Judeo-Christian heritage to imitate. Their stories include: kings and queens, biblical heroes, Indian and American saints, teen-aged saints, founders of religious orders, and modern-day martyrs who have suffered for their faith in persecuted lands all over the world. With assistance, children can dress up like the saint of their choice. The list is endless. It could be King David, Queen Esther, or Ruth of the Hebrew Scriptures. Others might include St. Kateri Tekawitha, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Martin de Porres, St. Maria Goretti, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John Bosco, and St. Pierre Toussant.
Children should be encouraged to dress up like their own sainted grandparents or other deceased family members. Then, if asked what they are doing and why, they will have a strong and richly-based reason to offer the inquirer.
Today, our youth look to the social and sports super-stars as role models. If Yankee fans wear Derek Jeter shirts, the Church has her own costumes to boast of and worthy of our imitation. The Church desires that through in the course of the liturgical year, all of us, young and not-so-young, celebrate not only the mysteries of Jesus and the Mother of God but also the feasts of the saints in heaven. It is these saints whose lives exemplify what success stories really mean. By studying their lives and by imitating them, we have our own spiritual super-stars and the ultimate success stories who have a message to all of us, a message that is of life in Christ.
On All Hallows’ Eve, children can be taught to view their costumes as baptismal robes and as symbols of a kingly and priestly people. St. John Chrysostom taught newly baptized Christians that the baptismal robe is an outward sign of the Christian’s inner beauty. (“Baptismal Instructions,” 1:34; 4:17-18; 6:11; 11:6-7) To sophisticates, this practice may seem quaint, but this catechesis grounds children in the life of the Church, always a better alternative to mindless practices.
A Thumbnail Theology on All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' and All Souls' Day
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The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states that “in the earthly liturgy, we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims … ” (No. 8; Apoc 21: 2; Col: 3,1; Heb: 8,2;). The phrase, “the heavenly Liturgy” occurs repeatedly in the liturgies of the Eastern Churches, but, the Latin Church hardly uses the phrase. In the West, the emphasis is placed on building up this world and seems to be uncomfortable with the transcendent image, preferring to see things in a practical, temporal, and less symbolic way. Jean Corbon, the noted theologian and ecumenist makes three important points about the present world’s relation to the next.
1. Our focus should never be entirely on the temporal. “To do this is to be a practical secularist or escaping from it (pietism).” (“The Wellspring of Worship,” 62, no. 11) Whatever we do in this world has consequences for the next, and we cannot separate this life from the next. There is a final judgment.
Those who have gone before us have exemplified how to live a saintly life.
They may be in another place, but they are still a living part of the Church in glory and the Church being purified. The earthly city and the heavenly city interpenetrate each other, but faith is necessary to recognize this mystery.
2. The next world represents the fullness and completion of time.
3. To ignore the next world is to situate ourselves prior to the Resurrection, into an empty faith. The kingdom of God is neither completely here in the present nor completely there in the future. The kingdom of God is here and there, both-and.
For Catholics, All Hallows’ Eve recalls that the Church on earth is only one part of the Body of Christ with the other two breaking in to our memories, our imaginations, our minds and hearts. This religious celebration is a far richer way to spend the last day of the beautiful month of October that ushers in the month of remembering.