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.
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.
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.
I 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!
Linking with Like Mother, Like Daughter