Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?

Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?
By Scott P. Richert, Guide

A Controversial Holiday:

Every year, a debate rages among Catholics and other Christians: Is Halloween a satanic holiday or merely a secular one? Should Catholic children dress up like ghosts and goblins? Is it good for children to be scared? Lost in the debate is the history of Halloween, which, far from being a pagan religious event, is actually a Christian celebration that's almost 1,300 years old.

The Christian Origins of Halloween:

"Halloween" is a name that means nothing by itself. It is a contraction of "All Hallows Eve," and it designates the vigil of All Hallows Day, more commonly known today as All Saints Day. ("Hallow," as a noun, is an old English word for saint. As a verb, it means to make something holy or to honor it as holy.) All Saints Day, November 1, is a Holy Day of Obligation, and both the feast and the vigil have been celebrated since the early eighth century, when they were instituted by Pope Gregory III in Rome. (A century later, they were extended to the Church at large by Pope Gregory IV.)

The Pagan Origins of Halloween:

Despite concerns among some Catholics and other Christians in recent years about the "pagan origins" of Halloween, there really are none. The first attempts to show some connection between the vigil of All Saints and the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain came over a thousand years after All Saints Day became a universal feast, and there's no evidence whatsoever that Gregory III or Gregory IV was even aware of Samhain.

In Celtic peasant culture, however, elements of the harvest festival survived, even among Christians, just as the Christmas tree owes its origins to pre-Christian Germanic traditions without being a pagan ritual.

Combining the Pagan and the Christian:

The Celtic elements included lighting bonfires, carving turnips (and, in America, pumpkins), and going from house to house, collecting treats, as carolers do at Christmas. But the "occult" aspects of Halloween—ghosts and demons—actually have their roots in Catholic belief. Christians believed that, at certain times of the year (Christmas is another), the veil separating earth from Purgatory, heaven, and even hell becomes more thin, and the souls in Purgatory (ghosts) and demons can be more readily seen. Thus the tradition of Halloween costumes owes as much, if not more, to Christian belief as to Celtic tradition.

The (First) Anti-Catholic Attack on Halloween:

The current attacks on Halloween aren't the first. In post-Reformation England, All Saints Day and its vigil were suppressed, and the Celtic peasant customs associated with Halloween were outlawed. Christmas and the traditions surrounding it were similarly attacked, and the Puritan Parliament banned Christmas outright in 1647. In America, Puritans outlawed the celebration of both Christmas and Halloween, which were revived largely by German Catholic (in the case of Christmas) and Irish Catholic (in the case of Halloween) immigrants in the 19th century.
The Commercialization of Halloween:

Continued opposition to Halloween was largely an expression of anti-Catholicism (as well as anti-Irish prejudice). But by the early 20th century, Halloween, like Christmas, was becoming highly commercialized. Pre-made costumes, decorations, and special candy all became widely available, and the Christian origins of the holiday were downplayed.

The rise of horror films, and especially the slasher films of the late 70's and 80's, contributed to Halloween's bad reputation, as did the claims of putative Satanists and Wiccans, who created a mythology in which Halloween had been their festival, co-opted later by Christians.

The (Second) Anti-Catholic Attack on Halloween:

A new backlash against Halloween by non-Catholic Christians began in the 1980's, in part because of claims that Halloween was the "Devil's Night"; in part because of urban legends about poisons and razor blades in Halloween candy; and in part because of an explicit opposition to Catholicism. Jack Chick, a rabidly anti-Catholic fundamentalist who distributes Bible tracts in the form of small comic books, helped lead the charge. (For more on Chick's rabid anti-Catholicism and his attack on Halloween, see Halloween, Jack Chick, and Anti-Catholicism.)

By the late 1990's, many Catholic parents, unaware of the anti-Catholic origins of the attack on Halloween, had begun to question Halloween as well, and alternative celebrations became popular.

Alternatives to Halloween Activities:

Boy as a Saintly Bishop
Ironically, one of the most popular Christian alternatives to celebrating Halloween is a secular "Harvest Festival," which has more in common with the Celtic Samhain than it does with the Catholic All Saints Day. There's nothing wrong with celebrating the harvest, but there's no need to strip such a celebration of connections with the Christian liturgical calendar.

Child dressed as Our Lady of Gaudalupe
Another popular Catholic alternative is an All Saints Party, usually held on Halloween and featuring costumes (of saints rather than ghouls) and candy. At best, though, this is an attempt to Christianize an already Christian holiday.

Safety Concerns and the Fear Factor:

Parents are in the best position to decide whether their children can participate safely in Halloween activities, and, in today's world, it's understandable that many choose to err on the side of caution. One concern that's often overblown, however, is the effect that fright might have on children. Some children, of course, are very sensitive, but most love scaring others and being scared themselves (within limits, of course). Any parent knows that the "Boo!" is usually followed by laughter, not only from the child doing the scaring, but from the one being scared. Halloween provides a structured environment for fear.

Making Your Decision:

In the end, the choice is yours to make as a parent…. explain the Christian origins of Halloween to your children. Before you send them off trick-or-treating, recite together the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, and explain that, as Catholics, we believe in the reality of evil. Tie the vigil explicitly to the Feast of All Saints, and explain to your children why we celebrate that feast, so that they won't view All Saints Day as "the boring day when we have to go to church before we can eat some more candy."

Let's reclaim Halloween for Christians, by returning to its roots in the Catholic Church!

More on Halloween


Purgatory St. John Vianney

Sermon on Purgatory by St. John Vianney

by DEVOTION TO THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 2:37am 

How many are there, perhaps, who during the course of eight or ten years have received from their parents or their friends the work of having Masses said and alms given and have allowed the whole thing to slide! 

How many are there who, for fear of finding that certain good works should be done, have not wanted to go to the trouble of looking at the will that their parents or their friends have made in their favor? 

Alas, these poor souls are still detained in the flames because no one has desired to fulfill their last wishes! Poor fathers and mothers, you are being sacrificed for the happiness of your children and your heirs! 

You perhaps have neglected your own salvation to augment their fortune. You are being cheated of the good works which you left behind in your wills! ... Poor parents! 

How blind you were to forget yourselves! ... You will tell me, perhaps: "Our parents lived good lives; they were very good people." Ah! They needed little to go into these flames!
 See what Albert the Great, a man whose virtues shone in such an extraordinary way, said on this matter. He revealed one day to one of his friends that God had taken him into Purgatory for having entertained a slightly self-satisfied thought about his own knowledge. The most astonishing thing was that there were actually saints there, even ones who were beatified, who were passing through Purgatory.

Saint Severinus, Archbishop of Cologne, appeared to one of his friends a long time after his death and told him that he had been in Purgatory for having deferred to the evening the prayers he should have said in the morning.

Oh! What years of Purgatory will there be for those Christians who have no difficulty at all in deferring their prayers to another time on the excuse of having to do some pressing work! 

If we really desired the happiness of possessing God, we should avoid the little faults as well as the big ones, since separation from God is so frightful a torment to all these poor souls!

St. Faustina's Conversation with Christ

"...Mother Margaret began with a prayer, explained to us what the third probation consists of, and then spoke on how great is the grace of the perpetual vows.  Suddenly, I began to cry out loud.  In an instant all God's graces appeared before my eyes of my soul, and I saw myself so wretched and ungrateful toward God.  The sisters began to rebuke me, saying, "Why did she break out crying?"  But Mother Margaret came to my defense, saying that she was not surprised.

At the end of the hour, I went before the Blessed Sacrament and, like the greatest and most miserable of wretches, I begged for His Mercy and He might heal and purify my poor soul.  

Then I heard these words,

"My daughter, all your miseries have been consumed in the flame of My Love, like a little twig thrown into a roaring fire.

By humbling yourself in this way, you draw upon yourself and upon other souls 
an entire sea of My Mercy."

I answered, 

'Jesus, mold my poor heart according to Your Divine Delight.' "

Excerpt taken from Divine Mercy in My Soul by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 178

If you have not read the Divine Mercy Diary, 
I highly recommend it. 

Prayer to Mary, Immaculate Virgin by St. Faustina

O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,
Pure crystal for my heart,
You are my strength, O secure anchor,
You are a shield and protection for a weak heart.

O Mary, you are pure and unparalleled,
Virgin and Mother at one and the same time;
You're beautiful as the sun, by nothing defiled.
Nothing is worthy of comparison 
to the image of Your Soul.

Your beauty enthralled the 
Thrice-Holy One's eye.
That He came down from heaven, 
forsaking th'eternal See's throne.
And assumed from Your Heart Body and Blood,
Hiding for nine months in the Virgin's Heart.

O Mother, Virgin, this will no one comprehend,
That the Infinite God is becoming a man;
It's only love's and 
His inscrutable mercy's purpose.
Through You, Mother--it's given us 
to live with Him forever.

O Mary, Virgin Mother and Heaven's Gate,
Through You salvation came to us;
Every grace to us streams forth 
through Your hands,
And faithful imitation of You 
only will sanctify me.

O Mother, Virgin--most beautiful Lily.
Your Heart was for Jesus 
the first tabernacle on earth,
And that, because Your humility 
was the deepest,
Wherefore You were raised 
above Angel choirs and Saints.

O Mary, my sweet Mother,
To You I turn over my soul, 
my body and my poor heart.
Be the safeguard of my life,
Especially at death's hour, 
in the final fight.
 Prayer by St. Faustina Kowalska

Prayer for the Eucharist by St. Faustina

O Blessed Host, in golden chalice 
enclosed for me,
That through the vast 
wilderness of exile
I may pass 
pure, immaculate, undefiled;
Oh, grant that through the power 
of Your love
this might come to be.

O Blessed Host, take up 
Your dwelling within my soul,
O Thou my heart's purest love!

With Your brilliance the darkness dispel.
Refuse not Your grace to a humble heart.

O Blessed Host, enchantment of all heaven.
Though Your beauty be veiled
And captured in a crumb of bread,
Strong faith tears away that veil.
 Prayer of St. Faustina

All Saint's Day--All Soul's Day

All Saints' Day
November 1

All Saints Day, the day on which Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown, is a surprisingly old feast. It arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.

 The current date of November 1 was instituted by Pope Gregory III (731-741), when he consecrated a chapel to all the martyrs in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and ordered an annual celebration. This celebration was originally confined to the diocese of Rome, but Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extended the feast to the entire Church and ordered it to be celebrated on November 1.

The vigil or eve of the feast, October 31, is commonly known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. Despite concerns among some Christians (including some Catholics) in recent years about the "pagan origins" of Halloween (see Halloween, Jack Chick, and Anti-Catholicism), the vigil was celebrated from the beginning—long before Irish practices, stripped of their pagan origins (just as the Christmas tree was stripped of similar connotations), were incorporated into popular celebrations of the feast.
Excerpts taken from: 

Vision of heaven, the New Jerusalem
All Saints' Day (in the Roman Catholic Church officially the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas), often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on the First of November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In the Western calendar it is the day after Halloween and the day before All Souls' Day.

In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. 

All Saints' Day at a cemetery in 
Sanok, Poland - flowers and lighted candles  honor the memory of deceased relatives. 

Christians who celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in purgatory (the 'Church Suffering'), those in heaven (the 'Church triumphant'), and the living (the 'Church militant'). Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church, the word "saints" refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saints' Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honoured and remembered.

Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints
By Fr Munachi Ezeogu, cssp

Why is it necessary to celebrate the feast of all saints? All year round we are celebrating feasts of saints: Thomas Aquinas, January 28; Augustine of Hippo, August 28; Theresa of Lisieux, October 1, etc. Why then is it necessary to set apart a day to celebrate the feast of all saints? I can think of two important reasons.

1. Beside the handful of saints whose feast days we celebrate on specific days in the year, there are countless other saints and martyrs, men, women and children united with God in the heavenly glory whom we do not celebrate. Many of these would be our own parents and grand-parents who were heroic women and men of faith. Today we keep their honourable memory. In many ways, therefore, today's feast can be called the feast of the Unknown Saint, in line with the tradition of the Unknown Soldier. We celebrate what the first reading calls "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands" (Rev 7:9).

All Saints Day Mass
2. This celebration gives us a peek into our eternal destiny. The saints we celebrate were men and women like us. Where we are now they used to be, and where they are now we hope to be someday. As Christians we know that a person's life story is not limited to what happens to them between the day they are born and the day they die. Our story starts before we are born, at our conception, and goes beyond the day we die, to all eternity. That is why we do not simply forget people after they die. Didn't St Theresa of Lisieux say that she would spend eternity doing good on earth? In our mortal eyes she is dead and gone. But in the eyes of faith we know that she is alive now more than ever, because she is now fully alive in God. She is now more alive than we are because the life she now enjoys can no longer be diminished by suffering, disease and sin, or death.

Unfortunately, our reaching the fullness of life with the saints does not happen automatically. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). How do we live a life of doing the will of our heavenly Father? The answer is given us in today's gospel, the Beatitudes, where Jesus gives his followers a road map to a happy eternity. All the saints we celebrate today walked the hard and narrow path of the Beatitudes to arrive at heavenly bliss. On the feast of All Saints the church invites us and challenges us to walk the walk, not just to talk the talk, of the saints.

The Beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice. They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to become the peacemakers in our dealings with one another, in our families and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes us to ridicule and persecution. None of the saints we celebrate today had it as their aim in life to amass wealth, to acquire power or to gain popularity. Rather they looked forward to the eternal reward which God gives to his faithful ones at the end of this short earthly life of illusion.

Children dressed as their favorite Saint
Today we are invited to walk the path of the saints, the way of the Beatitudes. The way is narrow and hard. We need faith and courage to walk it. The example of the saints and their prayers encourage us and help us on. St Augustine found it hard to live the Beatitudes, but when he read the lives of the saints he said, "What these ordinary women and men have done, why not me?" Why not? Faith assures us all who heed the call of Jesus and live the life of the Beatitudes that at the end of life we shall, together with all the saints, hear the consoling words of the Lord, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your master" (Matthew 25:21).

Thankyou, Fr Munachi Ezeogu

All Souls' Day November 2

In Western Christianity, this day is observed principally in the Catholic Church, although some churches of Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Churches also celebrate it. The Eastern Orthodox Church observes several All Souls' Days during the year. 

The Roman Catholic celebration is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to venial sins and from attachment to mortal sins cannot immediately attain the beatific vision in heaven, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass. 

In other words, when they died, they had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven. This sanctification is carried out posthumously in Purgatory.

Souls in Purgatory Angels assisting them through the Graces of Mary Mother of God
Among continental Protestants its tradition has been more tenaciously maintained. Even Luther's influence was not sufficient to abolish its celebration in Saxony during his lifetime; and, though its ecclesiastical sanction soon lapsed even in the Lutheran Church, its memory survives strongly in popular custom. Just as it is the custom of French people, of all ranks and creeds, to decorate the graves of their dead on the jour des morts, so German , Polish and Hungarian people stream to the graveyards once a year with offerings of flowers and special grave lights. Among Czech people the custom of visiting and tidying graves of relatives on the day is quite common even among atheists. In North America, however, most Protestant acknowledgment of the holiday is generally secular, celebrated in the form of Halloween festivities.

All Soul's Night Irish Folklore

Souls of the Dead wandering on All Soul's Night

All Soul's Night is when the walls between the worlds grow thin and spirits of the underworld walk the Earth.

On All Soul's Night a Rosary of fifteen decades was said, and food and drink were left on the kitchen table during the night for the departed souls of the family, who, it was believed, returned on this night. Mashed potatoes and spirits, such as poteen, were the normal offerings on such occasions. The people generally believed that the spirits of the dead remained in the household until twelve noon on the following day.

It was the custom on this night to sweep the kitchen floor carefully and put on a good fire to welcome the souls of dead relatives who were still in Purgatory. On the following morning the discerning eye could see the mark of feet in the ashes. If the footprints indicated a person facing the fire all was well but if they pointed towards the door a death would take place in the family during the coming year.

          There is a Mexican saying that we die three deaths: 

the first when our bodies die, 
the second when our bodies are 
lowered into the earth out of sight, and 
the third when our loved ones forget us. 

Catholics forestall that last death by seeing the faithful dead as members of the Church, alive in Christ, and by praying for them -- and asking their prayers for us -- always. 

Cardinal Wiseman wrote in his Lecture XI:
"Sweet is the consolation of the dying man, who, conscious of imperfection, believes that there are others to make intercession for him, when his own time for merit has expired; soothing to the afflicted survivors the thought that they possess powerful means of relieving their friend.

In the first moments of grief, this sentiment will often overpower religious prejudice, cast down the unbeliever on his knees beside the remains of his friend and snatch from him an unconscious prayer for rest; it is an impulse of nature which for the moment, aided by the analogies of revealed truth, seizes at once upon this consoling belief. But it is only a flitting and melancholy light, while the Catholic feeling, cheering though with solemn dimness, resembles the unfailing lamp, which the piety of the ancients is said to have hung before the sepulchres of their dead."
Though we should daily pray for the dead in Purgatory, above all for our ancestors, today is especially set aside for hanging that "unfailing lamp before the sepulchres of our dead" as we are told to do by Sacred Scripture:

"And making a gathering, [Judas] sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection,

(For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,)

And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."
II Maccabees 12: 43-46 
Book of Maccabees 12: 43-46

At the three Masses offered today, the glorious Sequence "Dies Irae" (also used in Requiem Masses, i.e., Masses for the Dead) will be recited after the Epistle, Gradual, and Tract ("Dies Irae" means "Day of Wrath").

Between Noon of November 1 and Midnight tonight, a person who has been to confession and Communion can gain a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, for the poor souls each time he visits a church or public oratory and recites the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory be to the Father six times. This is a special exception to the ordinary law of the Church according to which a plenary indulgence for the same work can be gained only once a day. Because of this, some of the customs described below may be begun on All Saints Day.

Also, the faithful who, during the period of eight days from All Saints Day, visit a cemetery and pray for the dead may gain a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, on each day of the Octave, applicable only to the dead. 

Catholics also pray this prayer for the dead anytime throughout the year, and whenever they pass a cemetery. 

Many families pray a Rosary nightly for the dead throughout the Octave of All Saints, replacing the Fatima prayer with the Eternal Rest prayer...

 Here is a simple invocation for the dead, called the "Eternal Rest" prayer:
Eternal rest grant unto him/her (them), O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him/her (them). May he/she (they) rest in peace. Amen.

Latin version:
Réquiem ætérnam dona ei (eis) Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei (eis). Requiéscat (Requiéscant) in pace. Amen.


It is practically universal folk belief that the souls in Purgatory are allowed to return to earth on All Souls Day. In Austria, they are said to wander the forests, praying for release. In Poland, they are said to visit their parish churches at midnight, where a light can be seen because of their presence. Afterward, they visit their families, and to make them welcome, a door or window is left open. In many places, a place is set for the dead at supper, or food is otherwise left out for them. In any case, throughout the Octave of All Saints, our beloved dead Flores para los muertosshould be remembered, commemorated, and prayed for.

 During our visits to their graves, we spruce up their resting sites, sprinkling them with holy water, leaving votive candles, and adorning them flowers (especially chrysanthemums and marigolds) to symbolize the Eden-like paradise that man was created to enjoy, and may, if saved, enjoy after death and any needed purgation.

Today is a good day to not only remember the dead spiritually, but to tell your children about their ancestors. Bring out those old photo albums and family trees! Write down your family's stories for your children and grandchildren! Impress upon them the importance of their ancestors! Bring to their minds these words from Ecclesiasticus:

 Let us now praise men of renown, 
and our fathers in their generation. 
The Lord hath wrought great glory 
through his magnificence from the beginning. 
Such as have borne rule in their dominions, 
men of great power, and endued with their wisdom, 
shewing forth in the prophets the dignity of prophets, 
And ruling over the present people, 
and by the strength of wisdom instructing 
the people in most holy words. 
Such as by their skill sought out musical tunes, 
and published canticles of the scriptures. 
Rich men in virtue, studying beautifulness: 
living at peace in their houses. 
All these have gained glory in their generations, 
and were praised in their days. 
They that were born of them have 
left a name behind them,
that their praises might be related:

 And there are some, of whom there is no memorial: 
who are perished, as if they had never been: 
and are become as if they had never been born, 
and their children with them. 

But these were men of mercy, 
whose godly deeds have not failed: 
Good things continue with their seed, 
Their posterity are a holy inheritance, 
and their seed hath stood in the covenants.
 And their children for their sakes remain for ever: 
their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. 
Their bodies are buried in peace, 
and their name liveth unto generation and generation. 
Let the people shew forth their wisdom, 
and the Church declare their praise.
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15

Excerpts taken from  

 Stories of the dead --

"As Saint Augustine saith: Sometimes souls be punished in the places where they have sinned, as appeareth by an ensample that Saint Gregory reciteth in the fourth book of his Dialogues, and saith that there was a priest which used gladly a bath, and when he came in to the bath he found a man whom he knew always ready for to serve him.

And it happened on a day, that for his diligent service and his reward, the priest gave to him a holy loaf.   And he weeping, answered: Father, wherefore givest thou me this thing? I may not eat it for it is holy. I was sometime lord of this place, but after my death, I was deputed for to serve here for my sins, but I pray thee that thou wilt offer this bread unto Almighty God for my sins, and know thou for certain that thy prayer shall be heard, and when then thou shalt come to wash thee, thou shalt not find me. And then this priest offered a week entire sacrifice to God for him, and when he came again he found him not."