Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic religion of Samhain. When the Catholic faith finally conquered pagan Rome in the early fourth century, the Church began to Christianize the pagan festivals. The Catholic way of evangelization, of course, was to recognize and retain the elements of goodness or neutral things in every culture while discarding what was false. That is why whenever the Church converted a population, it did not smash or destroy the customs of its people, but merely assimilated those customs by allowing the form to exist while changing the substance if it was not grounded in the truth of Christ. Paganism’s old shrines, for instance, were replaced with symbols of Christian worship.
By allowing the local population to retain many of the “liturgical” practices of its way of life, the Church was much more successful than it would have been by seeking to eradicate all aspects of pagan worship. One of those celebrations the Church replaced was the pagan practice of paying homage to the “dead” during this time of year. Instead of forbidding the practice, the Church chose to replace it with a Catholic holiday of honouring those Christian men and women who had born witness to Christ. A short article on the history and Catholic influence on Halloween can be read here. (A few years ago, I wrote a piece on the Catholic teaching of the Communion of Saints from a biblical perspective. It helps explain our practice of praying to and honouring the Saints. You can read it here.)
Although benign for most of this century, Halloween has now taken on a nastier and more ominous message in popular culture. It has become, in many respects, a pseudo liturgical practice for the culture of death. So for the past few years at my parish, we have decided to revive and recover the Christian tradition of honouring the Saints. Kids and adults alike come for skits, music, games, prayers, and good times on the Eve of All Saints Day, “All Hallows Eve”. (November 1 is “All Saints Day” in the Church’s liturgical calendar.) Last year and the years before that I normally got a little trick-or-treating in with the kids before the party started. This year we skipped the trick-or-treating completely. The numbers were down this year at the event because of a bad flu bug going around, but we had a lot of fun just the same. In fact, the games and crafts were superb!
Check out the pictures of my little saints…
Behind the Saints is a mural of the ‘heavenly gates’.
The Welcome Table between two murals of John Paul II’s famous Crucifix Staff.
The above two pictures were taken during the skit. St. Peter, on the left, The Blessed Virgin in the middle, and St. Maurice the Centurion on the right. St. Juan Diego is just to the right of St. Maurice. In the first picture, St. Veronica holds up her famous handkerchief with Christ’s face imprinted on it.
The Saints Come Marching In!
The (Adult) Communion of Saints! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Craft table with paper cut-outs of some of the saints. St. Patrick on the left and Michael the Archangel on the right.
St. Isadore`s Pumpkin Roll.
The Saintly Sweet section where the kids make their own desserts.
Getting down to business at St. Fiacre’s Pius Pumpkin Patch!
Fishing at St. Peter’s Pond. Making fishers of Saints!
St. Bernadette will have to settle for the spare at the Seven Deadly Sins Bowling Lane.
St. Gianna feeds the lambs.
For the little ones who need a break.
Fun at the “goodies” table.
And some pics from our annual leaf raking excursion at a church down the road…
Faith and hope will one day pass away, but love remains…for eternity.