Friday, January 28, 2022

Holy Halloween

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Children love Halloween, and not simply for the candy treats. Their imaginations are fertile and Halloween invites them to express their creativity. It is an opportunity for children to present themselves as more than adults envision them. Some of it may be frivolous, but it can be a healthy release of their dreams.

For Christians there is a religious dimension of Halloween which enables us to see ourselves as more than material beings. We are a holy people created to live in the presence of God here and hereafter, which is reflected in the celebrations of this season. Although some of our present Halloween customs may be from secular traditions, the historical roots are religious. The popular term, Halloween, is derived from All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Saints Day.

Halloween is historically related to and founded on the twin feasts of All Saints Day and All Souls Day which are celebrated by Christians on the first two days of November. These feasts represent the Christian paradox of life through death, the Paschal Mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This fundamental truth of Christianity is solemnly commemorated in the Eucharistic liturgy, but it can also be reflected creatively through symbols and artistic expressions. Halloween costumes can represent the Christian virtues as lived out in careers of service for others. Dressing up as an heroic saint, for example, can be an inspiring celebration of Halloween for adults as well as children.

The Christian observance of Halloween is completed on November 2, All Souls Day, when we recall not only our sainted ancestors but also our own mortality. Unfortunately, this aspect of Halloween is occasionally distorted into the macabre, dwelling on death in an unhealthy manner which can be harmful to children. But generally, halloween images of goblins and ghosts are presented in good humor without demeaning cemeteries or other monuments to the departed which are to be respected as sacred.

A sober reflection on death and dying can be a rewarding exercise for adults. Pope Francis observed recently, “It is death, paradoxically, that allows life to remain alive. It is the end goal that allows a story to be written. A culture that forgets death begins to die within. Remember, if death is not to have the last word, it is because in life we learned to die for one another.”

A life given in service to others is the hallmark of the great saints we honor on these twin feast days which conclude the Christian celebration of Halloween. The gospel passage read on All Saints Day is the Beatitudes, the blueprint for holiness which inspired the great saints: blessed are the merciful, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The term, “blessed,” can also be translated correctly as “holy,” or “happy.” Blessed are the merciful; holy are the merciful; happy are the merciful. May children of all ages celebrate this Halloween in a manner that will make them happy and blessed and holy.

Fr. Earl Meyer, St. Fidelis Friary, Victoria, Kansas

This article originally appeared on Hays Daily News: Holy Halloween

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