Thursday, October 31, 2013

On Celebrating the Saints (or why I don't think Halloween is evil but we still won't celebrate it)


{pretty}


I love All Saints' Day.  It really is one of my favorite feasts of the year.  It's a solemnity actually, like Christmas or Easter, meaning that it is one of the most important days on the Christian calendar.


A day to remember - and thank! - those who have gone before us and now are home.  Those who ran the race and won.  Those who fought hard and who carried their cross.  Those who now gaze upon the face of God.  We focus on them.  We celebrate them.  We thank them.  We ask for their intercession.  


The day is especially set aside to remember those who have not been given a proper feast on the calendar but who are just as much saints as those who have.  The ones without books and biographies, history or title.  We remember the trillions of souls (we hope) whose names we don't know but who have arrived home first.


It's a day to honor them.  It's not really about us at all.
Sure, we want to be like them and to one day join them and it sure is applicable to our own lives but the crux of and reason for the solemnity itself was to give them their due respect not necessarily to be a catechetical lesson.
(But we sure do like to make everything about us, don't we?)


And so we go to Mass.  We celebrate these countless souls who we will hopefully one day meet.  We throw parties in their honor.  We sing their praises and we recognize their dignity and their role in salvation history.  They had a story and whether we know the details or not, we honor it.  We pass down the stories that we do know, sharing them with our children and maintaining the collective memory.  

{happy}


Our family celebrates.  We celebrate those we know and those we don't.  We celebrate the hope that it gives to know that others have done it.  They really did it.  This life that sometimes seems so hard, so long, so insufferable.  They won it.  And that means we can, too.  Despite our wretchedness and sinfulness, we have hope in Christ.  


I owe my brothers and sisters in Christ so very much.  As a Catholic I believe that death has been overcome.  I believe that relationships, that love, is stronger than death.  And so I know that those who now live fully in the love of the Blessed Trinity cannot forget us here below.  They are living Love more fully than anything I can ever imagine here on earth.  They are part of Him and He never ever forgets His children.  How could they?


This day is a day I can use to thank them.  To show them in my own small simple ways how incredibly grateful I am to them.  For their witness, their prayers, their love.  For the powerful ways that they have worked in my life time and time again and in the countless ways that I've never even known.  I owe them that.


I gave birth to a saint once.  By the time I held his body, I believe that he was already living the beatific vision.  This day is a day for him.  A day that I get to say he existed and he is real and that yes, I really can still be in relationship with the child whose voice I never heard and whose hand I never held.  This day is a day for all those little ones that don't get their name on the calendar but who nonetheless are saints in heaven.  I love that and I'm so grateful for a Church that remembers those that the world never got to see.


So we will celebrate the entire solemnity, from the time the sun goes down this evening until tomorrow night, we will remember and feast and celebrate these beautiful souls, these friends of ours who have won.  


{funny}

I had to smile when I saw someone suggest that our children dressing in saint costumes couldn't possibly be as fun as an American Halloween.  My kids apparently never got that memo.  The amount of bouncing and preparing and counting down to All Saints' Day has been epic this year.  What is important to us becomes important to them, right?  We've been having a ball planning costumes and they are over the moon excited to celebrate.


Pope Cantaloupe the First has been occupying our counter this week helping reshape a flattened miter.  

{real}

wrote about this once before but the real reasons we don't do an American Halloween have little to do with thinking that it is inherently evil and I thought I might clarify since there seem to be assumptions made this time of year in comboxes and articles scattered about.  My reasons are a bit more of a practical nature:

•I can't do it all.  My time and energy is limited and I just can't give All Saints' Day the energy and focus I believe it deserves.  I know myself and any amount of energy spent preparing for and focusing on Halloween would be energy not spent on the solemnity.  Either that or I would do both and burn out.  For me as a Catholic, the solemnity of the Church calendar takes precedence.
•Some people are able to do both and somehow fit them together catechetically.  To me, it's a stretch.  If I were to do Halloween, it would be of the innocent, dress your kid like a cowboy variety.  And that, to me, is like going to a homecoming parade on Christmas Eve.  A good and fun thing, sure, but the timing is...off.
•I loooove that in the Judeo-Christian understanding of time, the day begins at sundown.  That means that All Saints' Day really begins tonight.  I'm a sucker for celebrating as soon as possible.
•Shake your head if you must but I'm also totally that mom who would end up throwing out half the candy as unfit to eat anyway.  Or I would submit to my gluttonous tendencies and sneak eat it at the kitchen counter.  (I can't imagine how hard it must be for those with food allergies to deal with it!  My sympathies.)
•We live in Buffalo and this is the last day of October.  My only memories of Halloween involve picking out a sweet costume only to be heartbroken by the fact that I had to wear a winter coat over it anyway.  One year I remember walking in a few inches of snow chattering our teeth as we knocked on doors in thirty degree temperatures which currently sounds like my least favorite way to spend an evening with four young children.  Another year my face paint trickled off in the chilling rain.  I think I may start a movement to bring some sort of innocent Halloween-esque type of thing to, say, August.  Far away from both major solemnities and pneumonia invitations.
•Wait, I do have that one memory of writing in my diary at eleven years old how I was longing to be a "sexy French maid" to impress the boy I had a crush on.  True story.  *shudder*
•Spiders, bats, some tissue paper ghosts, a cemetery here or there I can do.  Hideous bloody masks, gruesome flesh-eating zombies walking about, graphics and yard displays worthy of a B-rated horror flick I cannot.  And I don't want those images imprinted on my children's or my mind.  We read our share of fairytales and saint stories that have some pretty graphic story lines but when it is heard rather than displayed their minds can process it in a way that is safe for them, a way that strengthens and fortifies them rather than terrifying them.
•I've read some people stating that this is the day that Christians can laugh at the devil and mock death and that we should be partaking in this kind of stuff.  We have won, that is for dang sure, and I don't fear death or the devil in an unhealthy way.  However the Church still takes the reality of hell and the devil and his work pretty seriously.  There were saints who had run ins with the evil one but they never went looking for it.

Whether you celebrate Halloween or not, please take some time to pray for those who do observe it as a day of evil as well as asking St. Michael to protect your family from the attacks of the devil.  There are so many people entangled in the occult who need our prayers.  Let's remember to pray for them especially today as well as try to do our best to honor and thank our brothers and sisters in heaven who cheer us on as we figure all this stuff out.

Have a wonderful All Saints' Day and may all those souls in heaven, known and unknown, pray for us!





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24 comments:

  1. This is really lovely and honest, thank you.

    P.S. pretty sure you wouldn't enjoy my blog today!

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    1. Ha, I love your kids' imaginations!

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  2. Totally with you on the sadness over wearing a coat over a labor-of-love costume :( Agree with everything! And the pictures are absolutely gorgeous!!!!

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    1. It was so sad, right? I remember being a cat with my little leotard and tights and then having to bundle up in a winter coat because it was so cold out and no one could see my beloved costume anyway!

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  3. I am starting to wonder if Halloween varies from region to region because we have a lot less of the gruesome than I have read about recently. Lots of super heroes, soldiers, princesses, and fairies. My kids have always trick-or-treated as Roman soldiers, Minutemen, other historical figures, or saints. I do believe they represent the saints and that's the way Halloween should be. Last year Faith was Joan of Arc and this year she is a Musketeer -- in a dress. She had a hard time deciding between that and a colonial girl. The boys are too big to trick or treat, but one of the boys is coming home from campus with his fiancee to hand out candy. It's good, happy fun for us. My mom comes and brings a pot of chili. Every once in a while we get a grim reaper at the door but I always tell them dead people don't eat candy (I do still give a treat). We don't have an alternative All Saints event. I wish we did, so this is as close as it gets and I make it as close as I can. Tomorrow we feast with the saints in spirit, and then on Saturday we pray for the poor souls. I do think it can be tied together, but I am lucky to live in an area that keeps it all pretty light.

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    1. I think you may be right! I love the idea of historical figures also representing the saints! I've never heard it put that way before.

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    2. Of course, that's only the "good" historical figures! I wouldn't say that applies to all. :-) I am pretty sure all three boys went as St. Longinus at one point (but to people who asked "what are you dressed as?" -- duh, a leather skirt, armor and a Roman helmet? -- they just responded, "A Roman soldier" to quickly make their escape).

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  4. I think your ideas on All Saint's and All Soul's is just lovely. You know what's best for your family so you keep doing it. We live in a small, conservative community and we do trick-or-treat. However, with the exception of this year because the 31st has landed on the last Thursday of the month, we usually do have a separation of days between trick or treat and the All Saint's/All Souls celebrations. Where we live, trick or treat is always the last Thursday of Oct which is rare for it to land on the 31st. It makes it a little easier to separate the American custom from the Holy Day celebrations. Luckily, our town is very family and kid oriented so there is no gruesome displays. Mostly, mums, cornstalks, orange lights, and pumpkins.

    Two last comments. 1) I love old houses and yours is perfectly dreamy. My house will be 100 years old in 2016. 2) Love Pope Cantalope. He's a sweet old fellow!

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    1. See, I think it would be great to do that because I do think it would be lots of fun...but maybe in August or September :)

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    2. I had a friend in college tell me that where he grew up, trick or treating was always on the last Saturday of October. He was sincerely shocked to hear that was not typical. At the time, I didn't understand how that might be a good idea. As a mom of three so far... I totally get it! :)

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  5. What a gorgeous tree with beautiful leaves! I love your first few photos.

    I also love this..."What is important to us becomes important to them, right?" so true!

    I grew up going to an All Saint's party at my Mennonite church and it was a favorite and much-anticipated event. We would dress up as saints and then write clues about who we were - there was a panel of judges and we would try to stump them.

    I love your reason about it being the last day in October in Buffalo! The year we lived in the UP, we were out in the snow - not fun.

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    1. I didn't know Mennonites observed All Saints'! That is really neat!

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    2. I don't know if all Mennonites do or not...I just know we did and it was our alternative to Halloween.

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  6. Love it, Mary!!! Hoping to celebrate both holidays this year as well. Can't wait to see the pictures! You really dressed up as a French maid?!?! - that is a story I would love to hear! Happy All Saint's Day to you!!!

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    1. Oh no, no, no. I WANTED to be a French maid. Thankfully, I knew that there was a limit to what my mother would allow me to get away with. But how sad is it that that's what I wanted to be? Sigh. I think I ended up a pirate that year...

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  7. As someone who celebrates Halloween, I found this super offensive. Or not. :) Well done.

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  8. Halloween is not really big here in Australia and I have often thought this

    >>•I can't do it all. My time and energy is limited and I just can't give All Saints' Day the energy and focus I believe it deserves. I know myself and any amount of energy spent preparing for and focusing on Halloween would be energy not spent on the solemnity. Either that or I would do both and burn out. For me as a Catholic, the solemnity of the Church calendar takes precedence.<<

    How you wouldn't burn out I often wonder, and then in America you have Thanksgiving coming up and Christmas after that!

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    1. We Americans are cuh-razy sometimes. Really, this time of year is so beautiful but so so tough.

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  9. Hi Mary! Came across you at LMLD. I am totally with you on not needing the scary stuff in life. We have tried trick or treat and invariably the youngest (5yo last time we did it) is terrified by that one kid with the scary mask and it is all ruined. This time of year we have to avoid certain stores--or certain sections of the stores too! This year (and last--as well as the years we lived in the UK) we have focused on All Saints Day and they have just as much fun playing saints (and no more candy that I am willing to let them have!)
    And I love your beautiful house and fall leaves ---here in Texas we don't get much of that fall stuff! ;)

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    1. Oh, we've totally had to deal with the store situation as well. I had to complain at a few stores years ago because it was over the top creepy. The grocery store we used to go to had this horrible display right at the entrance that you couldn't get around without seeing. It seems like it's toned down a bit around here. Either that or I just go shopping way less now that there are four kids in tow and don't notice it as much :)

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  10. Ha! I remember wearing the snow suit over a costume one year, too! We don't trick-or-treat here. I try and focus it on the ACTUAL "reason for the season" and leave All Hallows' Eve for pumpkins/the story of Stingy Jack, things "autumn" and the anticipation of Hallowmas feasting the next day. We keep it simple - books, coloring, prayers, cemetery visiting (Mass goes without saying)... Just try and touch all the bases and get in some religious education.

    LOVE your house! How gorgeous in the autumn!

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  11. So beautifully said....feel like you took it right out of my mouth. Thanks.

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  12. ps....love seeing all your boys. I'm expecting our 4th boy this Christmas! www.knitinmywomb.blogspot.com.

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    1. Congratulations! Your family is beautiful! How awesome would it be if we could get our boys together?!

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