Emmitsburg Council of Churches


All Hallows Eve - secular incantation or saintly celebration?

Father John J. Lombardi

The saints of God and our Church help us!  St Peter, the first pope, and convert to the Faith, shows us we can witness to Christ even after betraying Him-he was martyred after evangelizing in Rome. St Augustine shows us the most troubled sinner can change his or her life. St Thomas More, married man and father of five, shows us how to make heroic choices for God-he declined an illegitimate divorce to the King of England and was killed for the Faith. St John of the Cross teaches us that even amidst great sufferings we can be attuned to God--He is called the Mystical Doctor. St. Terese of Lieseaux shows us we can "do little things with great love for God."

The feast of All Saints is coming up this Saturday, November 1. Much of America will pass it by but we hope you will not: We Christians celebrate the Mystical Communion-that God has given us a family of spiritual friends and intercessors now in Heaven-the saints. The saints are saintly precisely because they lived the virtues heroically, they let Jesus live in them and they kept trying to overcome sin by practicing holy thoughts words and deeds-how about you?

The world celebrates "Halloween" this Friday while we vigil on "All Hallows Eve". The holiday of "Halloween" is a secular celebration which derives from the pagan celebration, Samhain, when worshippers in seventh-century Britain invoked the spirits of the dead, built bonfires and ritualized other semi-pagan practices, which others (hopefully not you!) took over and developed. The Catholic Church, however, evangelized using the native culture present there (this is called "inculturation"), took advantage of a bad thing and inserted the Feast of All Saints and All Souls-which put us in touch with the saints-and inserted it in place of the feast of Samhain. Gradually Americans and others placed "Halloween" at this time of year

So, "Halloween," though not bad in itself, can lead to some bad things. Like the original Halloween it can be gruesome (literally), or ugly, scarifying, or glorify gore, horror and ugliness (don't think so?: look at how many violent videos children are being sold and weaned on)-remember, this was originally a pagan feast. Moral: when we are not directly connected to God and legitimate, orthodox celebrations, we can become worldly, pagan and un-Christian. "Do not conform to the world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind in the spirit" (Rm 12:2).

What is paganism? It includes the occult , Satan worship ( underlying this is, as with Satan himself, a rebellion against God, Church or Commandments, or against any kind of valid order); some new age practices; worship of material objects or using them for power or spells; witchcraft, necromancy (worshipping or communicating with the dead), and bad magic. You may see these gaining in prominence and power-there are courses on channeling spirits, psychic hotlines and witchcraft. This paganism is becoming "airbrushed" into public life (mainstreamed by appearing un-harmful), into government service (witches are almost chaplains in the army), and into the culture (occult books and characters are proposed as heroes and approved by some educators). Samhain is nearby. Remember: "For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the Truth and will be diverted to myths" (II Tim 4:3).

Have you noticed today a tendency in American life among some to glamorize darkness, gore violence --attributes of paganism ? We see this in the "goth assault on beauty, order, harmony and purity. How so? The Human body-- claritas-which resembles the "saintly body" and light of God shining thru it (think of angels and saints) versus darkness-excessive body emasculation, thru tattoos and marring of the body which darken it, and also in the "goth phenomenon"--(kids dressing in all black, with white makeup and practicing animal ritual killing). Darkness is threatening light. Music--Harmony is what is beautiful, peaceful and upbuilding (think of the "music of the spheres"-angelic music and chant) versus dissonance (in some forms of classical music-atonal, and in some forms of rock and rap music, which propose anarchy and denigration of women.

Fine arts: Integritas (integrity) promotes proper form, beauty and unity of body (think of glamour of Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa")-versus the chaos and dissolution of emasculated bodies in modernistic painting and art exhibits displayed crudely. This, too is an overthrow of God's order.

Philosophy: Synthesis is, was promoted in coherent systems of Truth and morality fitting together, into a God-given whole. But, today nihilism is a norm, implying that Truth is fragmented, and, if it can be known at all is, not universally applicable to all.

These phenomenon are all sustained, sometimes subtle attacks on the knowable- and doable-God-given-order for us on Earth. When paganism is proposed the power of the Devil is promoted. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but with the principalities, with powers…of this present darkness, with the evil spirits …" (Eph 6:13)

So, when you send your son or daughter out for "trick or treat"-or you go out to a party-will the costume be a ghost or goblin (thus promoting and perpetuating paganism), or a saint or hero of light (promoting the saintly communion)?

Also, this time of year, people may ask: "What are ghosts?" Well, consulting a couple of theologians, we found, basically, there is no "official" Catholic teaching on this. Therefore, anything else would be speculation. We do believe in spirits-good and bad ones, angels and demons; these, however are not ghosts as we understand. But, perhaps, because of the interdependence of the spiritual-material worlds (their meshing), what appear to be ghosts might be some kind of "blending" between the physical and spiritual worlds-and some kind of "lost or wandering souls" however manifesting in this plane of existence. After all, angels sometimes go from invisibility to visibility.

The point, in our Faith, though-especially at "Halloween" time-- is not to fixate on this mysterious phenomena, or "dark" powers-especially when there is no official Catholic teaching on it. To wit: we-and our children--should focus on Angels of Light (for instance, on St Michael, who battles evil, on cultivating relationship with our Guardian Angels); and we should avoid bad spirits-thru pagan practices promoted at Halloween time, thru bad choices and aligning with evil, thru promoting disorder, magic and witchcraft. We should not "glamorize" them by dressing like, imitating, or proposing books on them. "God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all" (I Jn 1:5).

How to Respond on Feast of All Saints:

  • Study the lives of the Saints: read about the many, varied saintly persons whom God has formed to inspire and encourage us to deeper holiness. Buy a book on the saints, read them to family and friends.
  • Dress up as a saint: for Halloween celebrate the true meaning-All Hallows Eve. Investigate a saint with your child and then make a costume of him or her and let your child witness to others.
  • Saint Images: there are many holy pictures/icons of saints- acquire one or many and begin to emulate them by seeing their likeness in your home-they are your nearby, heavenly friends.
  • Saints party-hold a "festival of saints" by asking children and others to dress up, by bringing a brief biography of them to share with others. Have some treats on hand for them.
  • Your Confirmation name-Re-acquaint yourself with him or her and dedicate yourself to God with their help.
  • Litany of the Saints-memorize a few of your favorite, or well known saints, and invoke them throughout the day of with family or friends.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi