Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009, is All Saints’ Day, a solemnity.
Halloween and All Souls
Last year, we attended our Connecticut parish’s “Holyween” party, where the kids dressed as saints and Dominican Father Bernard Confer guessed with astonishing accuracy who each was. This year we’re in Atchison, Kan., a town that has a cottage industry of promoting haunted houses.
Catholic parents often debate the merits of Halloween as it’s celebrated in America today. Is it too macabre? What message does it send?
We will remind the kids that “All Hallows Eve” — the vigil of All Saints’ Day — dates back to the time the Church took over the Pantheon in Rome in the 600s. The “gods” were removed from altars which were reconsecrated to the martyrs. So, on the first “All Hallows Eve,” the streets of Rome were literally lined with carts of bones — martyrs’ relics. Yes, other pagan practices have been mixed in, but we will focus on that first mix of skeletons and saints.
We’ll pray to the folks in heaven and celebrate their victory with fun and candy. And on All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, we will round out the experience by visiting a cemetery to start the month of prayer for the dead.
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24:1-6; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
The beatitudes — today’s Gospel — are more relevant than ever. Let us count the ways.
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
Those who aren’t poor in spirit — those whose hopes are in wealth, health or material pleasures — have had a tough year. But those who look to spiritual realities for fulfillment needn’t be fundamentally disturbed by market crashes or tough times. Their investments are in good hands.
2. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
In order to mourn, you have to be sensitive to the value of life. In a world with 42 million elective abortions each year, this beatitude is as needed as ever — and as powerful as ever. The most effective new voices in the pro-life movement are the mothers of aborted children.
3. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
To be meek means to allow God’s will to dominate your own will. The meek don’t abuse the earth; and the meek don’t see mankind as a blight on the earth, either. The meek take God’s creation on God’s terms, and truly inherit the earth by appreciating the beauty of nature and the dignity of human life.
4. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
“Be nice” is a fine philosophy of life, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. To “hunger and thirst for righteousness” means to refuse to tolerate the destruction of social values. Such a hunger won’t stand for the destruction of marriage and the family, pornography, embryo-killing research, or other intrinsic evils. However …
5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
“Not tolerating evil” can’t mean “rejecting those we disagree with.” Christ said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We can have that same merciful attitude toward sinners — especially since we’re sinners, too — and seek to better them, not just denounce them.
6. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.”
Pope John Paul II said to be “pure of heart” is to see the true value of other people, and not make them objects. People describe how a glance from a John Paul or Mother Teresa made them feel like they were in the presence of something great. If we are pure of heart, we’ll see Christ in those we meet — and that will help them see God, too.
7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Ours is an age where escalating violence is seen as an answer to problems. Though self-defense is sometimes necessary, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II both pointed out that even that necessary and noble war, World War II, left Europe on a path to secularization and the culture of death. Solidarity, not war, is the path to peace.
8. “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
There are today more persecuted Christians than ever before — Christians are being harassed and killed in India, Africa, the Philippines, China, Myanmar, Iraq, the Middle East, and on and on. We can pray for the persecuted — and pray to the martyrs of our time for the building of the Kingdom of heaven on earth.
Tom and April Hoopes were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine. Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and a former Register editor.