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All Saints Eve

Posted Thursday, October 30, 2008, at 8:24 AM

As a kid the most perturbing thing about Halloween was the Catholic schools got the next day off for "All Saints Day." According to my friends "Halloween" is short for evening before the holy day of the saints. In our neighborhood this meant almost everybody but my sister and I were off school. For some reason this is my most persistent memory of the day. As a general rule I did not care that much for candy and liked best those few folks who gave out nickels. You could do something with a nickel.

There were various masks available, mostly the Lone Ranger type. I don't know of anyone who didn't make their own costumes (i.e. got their moms to make it). If there was any question of safety in those days no one told us. We knew our neighborhood and the people, how far we could travel and get back "in time" (whatever that was), and you didn't bother with houses which had no light on (they wouldn't have anything for you, anyhow). By eighth-grade, interest in Halloween faded into "childish things."

It wasn't until after we were married in the mid 60s did we hear of malicious people putting malicious things in candy. By the time our own kids were old enough to Trick-or-Treat hospitals were offering X-Rays and we were watching which house the kids went to -- no longer really knowing anyone in our own neighborhood.

Part of the culture shock of moving to a small town in Indiana back in 1996 was both that Trick-or-Treating was regulated as to hours, and (more astonishingly) there were two nights to do it on. Sometimes apparently kids even got three shots at it -- or so they said. Admittedly this did not affect us much our first ten years. We lived so far off the highway we didn't actually get visitors other than our grandchildren -- who made a special trip to show off their costumes and get grandma's special treats.

Two Halloweens ago we moved into town, on a corner lot facing a main street. The result has been we get kids at both the front and back door. I kind of enjoy it, and Kay seems to love it. Somehow, though, none of the kids wants a nickel. Only the older (too old?) kids travel without parental types.

We hear that Halloween is now is second highest retail sales season. Most of this money is spent on candy and costumes for children. But an increasing amount goes to adults on what the British call "fancy dress parties." I guess some just don't grow up. Certainly no one thinks any harm in done since we all know that devils and demons and ghost and even saints aren't real, just fun stuff.

There is no particular point to all this, no insightful conclusion to be drawn. I do find myself wondering, though, is this not-about-saints-anymore thing going somewhere? In "The Screwtape Letters" British author and philosopher C. S. Lewis has lead demon Wormwood say, "If once we can produce our perfect work -- the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls "Forces" while denying the existence of "spirits"--then the end of the war will be in sight." With all the money and all the danger and all the denial of "spirits" and demystifying of saints in 21st century Halloween, is the end of the war in sight for Wormwood?

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@joink.com.


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David,

The holy day that you reference in your first paragraph is All Saints Day, and "Halloween" is a contracted version of "All Hallow's Eve", or the night before this holy day.

from Wikipedia: "The Roman Catholic holiday of All Saints Day falls on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church."

Thus, the reason the Catholic children in your neighborhood had the day off from school - it is a holy day of obligation, very important to practicing Catholics.

But the reason for my response is your reference in your final paragraph:

In "The Screwtape Letters" British author and philosopher C. S. Lewis has lead demon Wormwood say, "If once we can produce our perfect work -- the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls "Forces" while denying the existence of "spirits"--then the end of the war will be in sight." With all the money and all the danger and all the denial of "spirits" and demystifying of saints in 21st century Halloween, is the end of the war in sight for Wormwood?

I speak for no one other than myself, a practicing Roman Catholic, but I can say with absolute assurance that we (the Roman Catholic Church) have at no time, either in doctrine, dogma, or practice, denied the existence of spirits or demystified the saints. The communion of saints is at the core of our beliefs.

Again, from Wikipedia:

In Catholic terminology, the Communion of Saints is thus said to comprise the Church Militant (those alive on earth), the Church Penitent (those undergoing purification in Purgatory in preparation for heaven), and the Church Triumphant (those already in heaven). The damned are not among the Communion of Saints. The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East point to this doctrine in support of their practice of asking the intercession of the saints in heaven, whose prayers (cf. Revelation 5:8) are seen as helping their fellow Christians on earth. These same churches refer to this doctrine in support of the practice of praying for the dead.

Further, if you were to visit a parish school on Halloween, you would of course find your share of witches and ghosts, but you would also find children dressed as martyred saints and biblical characters.

We look forward to All Hallow's Eve, All Saints Day, and All Soul's Day. They are a celebration of the saints and martyrs of our Christian past.

-- Posted by quentin58 on Fri, Oct 31, 2008, at 7:17 AM

quentin58~

Well said ~ from one practicing Catholic to another ~ thank you for explaining one small part of our faith ~

-- Posted by karebabe on Fri, Oct 31, 2008, at 8:33 AM

To Quentin and Karebabe,

I don't think that David was saying anything negative against the catholic faith, I believe however he was trying to say that a majority of the population has commercialized many religious holidays, and taken away from their real meaning. If you look at so many other holidays, it is truly sad to see that it's more about stores making money and people giving or receiving gifts.

I am not currently attending a church, but still believe in god, and I try to show my children that, while it's great to receive gifts not to forget the true meaning of our faith.

-- Posted by Localguy1972 on Fri, Oct 31, 2008, at 3:58 PM

Is it not the case that to the degree we as a culture have loss a reverence for the saints and come to disbelieve in demons, we have to that same degree had to raise our defences against evil?

-- Posted by LifeObserver on Fri, Oct 31, 2008, at 4:26 PM

Localguy1972 ~ I personally did not take any of David's remarks in a negative manner ~ I just appreciated Quentin sharing additional detail about "All Saints Day" ~ some readers may never have even heard of this day ~ but it is an important observance to Catholics ~ I kinda thought it was funny that David was a little miffed as a child when the Parochial schools were out ~ I was always a little miffed as a child when I had to eat fish on Fridays but others could do whatever ~ there's an even balance in there somehow ~

& LifeObserver ~ Totally agree ~ but you would be surprised the number of times I have been asked if a Protestant could "borrow" (like they're mine ~ LOL) a Saint for some special need in their life ~ usually it is something trivial ~ I think many folks believe that the Saints & the Virgin Mary belong to the Catholics ~ perhaps we just pray to them the most ~ I still think Satan exists & yes, defenses againts evil have risen ~ all we can do is believe & pray for a nicer world ~

-- Posted by karebabe on Fri, Oct 31, 2008, at 4:54 PM

I likewise did not take any of David's remarks in a negative manner - I simply wanted to respond to the question he posed in his final paragraph:

"With all the money and all the danger and all the denial of "spirits" and demystifying of saints in 21st century Halloween, is the end of the war in sight for Wormwood?"

My response was an attempt to explain how we (Catholics) have in no way demystified saints or denied spirits.

I am thrilled, however, to see so many responses and such lively conversation/discussion about this topic.

Where we all agree (it seems from the responses): Holidays have become too commercialized, and there is still a war against evil to be fought.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween and, for my fellow Catholics - Blessed All Saints Day! We will be lighting candles and praying to our particular patron saints today (in our home, Joseph - patron saint of families, and Anne -mother of the Blessed Virgin and patron saint of mothers and teachers)

-- Posted by quentin58 on Sat, Nov 1, 2008, at 7:06 AM

And at my house... Saint Francis who cares for the animals and children! Somethings that can use a large amount of prayer!

-- Posted by sassypants on Mon, Nov 3, 2008, at 11:43 AM

St Francis is a staple at our home, too, Sassy!

-- Posted by karebabe on Mon, Nov 3, 2008, at 12:56 PM


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