The Way of Beauty Celebrating All Hallows' Eve: Part Two

pumpkins by Hide Obara

Editor's note: Part one of this series can be read here.

Next to Christmas, Halloween is the most commercial and the most anticipated festivity of the year. Like Christmas, Halloween captures the American mindset long before the actual date.  Whether or not the commercial world wants to admit it, Christmas is primarily a Christian religious feast celebrating the Nativity of the Lord's birth.  The commercial world probably has little awareness of the religious history of Halloween.

Like most cultures, the Judeo-Christian tradition is guided by cycles of time.  Though distinct from civil time, sacred time is not separated from it but gives it meaning and makes it sacred. God is present and at work in history, and it is through the two concentric circles of civil and sacred time, that we live and work out our salvation. The Jewish liturgical year is highlighted by the holydays of Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah; the Muslim, by Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr.

Overview for All Hallows' Eve

Catholic education is committed to have its students live the liturgical year as an integral part of their schooling. Celebrating All Hallows' Eve is a splendid way for doing so. Diocesan committees on liturgy should join with school principals, teachers, and student leaders to plan well ahead of time for its students to celebrate the vigil of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, respectively.

Today, our youth look up to super-stars as role models.  Some are worthy of admiration. The Church can boast of its own success stories of men and women who are worthy not only of admiration but also of imitation.  Parents, teachers, and catechists can find countless success stories within the Judeo-Christian heritage.  Donning period costumes of times when saints lived makes learning about one's faith an enjoyable experience.  It's fun to dress like kings, queens, biblical heroes, Native American saints and saints who immigrated to this country.  It's fun to dress like those who befriended and worked among Native Americans, African Americans, and immigrants, teen-age saints, and founders of religious orders.

Modern-day martyrs have suffered and died for their faith in lands all over the world. There are martyrs such as the four Maryknoll women missionaries and the Jesuits slain in El Salvador, Asian martyrs, and those who continue to be martyred for their faith in Syria and other Mideast countries.   

The Canonization of St. Thérèse of Lisieux's Parents

Youngsters may choose to dress up like their own mothers and fathers, their grandparents or other revered relatives. 

We should note that this past Sunday and during the ongoing Synod on the family, Pope Francis canonized Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  They are the first-ever married couple with children to be canonized in the same ceremony.  Let us anticipate that more married couples will soon be canonized for their fidelity to such a difficult vocation, especially today with the sacredness of marriage under attack.  Their example and recognition are much needed in today's Church.

All five of their daughters entered religious life.  In March of this year, the Pope recognized a miracle attributed to the French couple. They have been described as "an extraordinary witness of conjugal and family spirituality." They lived a fervent Christianity, attending daily Mass, practicing asceticism, and visiting the elderly and the sick, even welcoming the poor into their home.

Planning Group Activities

A group's creativity will vary as the members consider what activities will be chosen for All Hallows' Eve. Children love to compose haiku, limericks, and poems.  They may choose to write short paragraphs about their choices.  Skits may be presented.  Some children may want to dress up dolls in costumes, keep them, donate or sell them at a benefit for children in need.  For the more ambitious, a marionette skit may be possible drawing together a number of saints in lively repartee.  

Some families may want to host a party on All Hallows' Eve featuring foods that include pumpkin in recipes-cupcakes, pie, bread, or fritters; doughnuts; apples and other fruits for dunking.  With adult chaperones, children may process around their neighborhood in their saints' costumes.  These are only a few ideas that will perhaps spark others.

If children see educators earnestly planning for All Hallows' Eve, they will gladly receive the Church's celebration as an integral part of their Catholic education. Children instinctively recognize what is good, wholesome, and beautiful in contrast to what is sleazy and dangerous. 

A Word of Caution

Despite the positive tone of this essay, some readers may feel that my suggestions have little chance against the ghoulish display of Halloween parades.  They will still lock their doors each year and pray that it all quickly disappears, that they all retire to their homes without incident.  My response:  Above all, we continue to educate our readers and hope for changes in attitudes and activity.

More in The Way of Beauty

The Church's Year of Grace

It is the mind of the Church that through the course of "the Church's year of grace," all of us celebrate not only the mysteries of Jesus and the Mother of God but also the feasts of the saints in heaven.  In his 1947 encyclical, Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII wrote: "Through the course of the liturgical year, . . . the Church is always striving to set forth examples of holiness for the faithful, that they, being moved by these examples, may adorn themselves with the virtues of the Redeemer Himself." 

Proud to Be Part of the Religious Minority

If devout Jews and Muslims proudly and publicly observe their liturgical holydays during the year, are they not prompting us Catholics to proclaim our faith as well?  We are missionaries of a beautiful faith. As "the Church's year of grace" is repeated one cycle after the other, it becomes the primary way in which Catholics can sacralize the year, the week, and the day-and All Hallows' Eve.

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