Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

11/1/2013 (5 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As for the growing pagan practices around us, I am not all that concerned. We are a missionary Church. That is why I use the term Pre-Christian to describe the state of the West - not Post Christian

Like many Catholics and other Christians I am aware that the contemporary celebration of Halloween, with its undue influence on goblins, ghosts and the demonic, reflects the waning influence of the Christian worldview in the West. However, it also presents an opportunity for Catholic Christians to do what we have always done, live like missionaries in our own culture. Particularly during this Year of Faith I suggest we consider how the Church has transformed cultures throughout her history- and then do the same.

As for the growing pagan practices around us, I am not all that concerned. We are a missionary Church. That is why I use the term Pre-Christian to describe the state of the West - not Post Christian. This is a new missionary age and there is a lot of work to be done. I say, let's embrace what is good in our culture - and transform what is not. Halloween is just one more invitation to engage in Christian mission in this Year of Faith.

As for the growing pagan practices around us, I am not all that concerned. We are a missionary Church. That is why I use the term Pre-Christian to describe the state of the West - not Post Christian. This is a new missionary age and there is a lot of work to be done. I say, let's embrace what is good in our culture - and transform what is not. Halloween is just one more invitation to engage in Christian mission in this Year of Faith.

Article Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

11/1/2013 (5 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Halloween, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, communion of saints, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - One of my favorite online magazines is Crisis. Recently they offered an insightful article on Halloween by Sean Fitzpatrick entitled All Hallows Eve or Halloween? It prompted me to write. Tomorrow evening I will return from a legal seminar in Washington, DC to neighborhood children at my door seeking candy. Many will be accompanied by their parents, my neighbors.

Like many of my readers, I have been all over the place on this matter. I respect the various ways in which Catholics and other Christians choose to approach it.  However, I think it is helpful to consider the context. The term Halloween is derived from All Hallows Eve, the Christian Vigil of the celebration of the Christian Feast of All Saints. The beautiful readings at Holy Mass point us toward the perfection of the Saints in heaven and encourage us to become saints in our own journey here on earth, through living the words of Jesus in the beatitudes.

Like many Catholics and other Christians I am aware that the contemporary celebration of Halloween, with its undue influence on goblins, ghosts and the demonic, reflects the waning influence of the Christian worldview in the West. However, it also presents an opportunity for Catholic Christians to do what we have always done, live like missionaries in our own culture. Particularly during this Year of Faith I suggest we consider how the Church has transformed cultures throughout her history- and then do the same.

The Church has always recognized that some cultural practices can be mixed, containing those aspects which elevate the human person and those which do not. Halloween falls in that category. However, I suggest that members of the Catholic Church are invited to transform cultural practices from within through a proper participation. That has been our missionary model for over two millennia. Many of the dates on the calendar which were Christianized and now host Christian Holy-Days were originally utilized for Pre-Christian (Pagan) celebrations. This process reflects the wisdom of the Church and her faith based missionary approach. She baptized them, recognizing the seeds of what was good and true within them.

By immersing them in the beauty of the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate - who is the fullness of truth and the source of all goodness - she turns them into vehicles for transforming culture by infusing them with the values of the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated. The Church is the Body of Christ. She is meant to become the home of the whole human race. As the early fathers were fond of proclaiming, the Church is the world reconciled - the world in the process of transfiguration. We who live our lives now in the Church do so for the sake of the world.

We should not be afraid of human culture. We are called to continue the redemptive mission of our Lord by transforming it from within as leaven in a loaf. Even the emphasis on the dead which often accompanies Halloween offers an opportunity to address this great existential issue. Whereas many secularists and contemporary pagans fear death, we do not. The early Christians always honored the dead and had a special devotion and affection for the martyrs. We have wonderful accounts like the Martyrdom of Polycarp from the middle of the second century which set forth the practices:

Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more pure than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, so that when being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps .

The Liturgy was often celebrated over the bones of the holy ones, the saints, who gave their lives in love for Love Himself; Jesus Christ the Savior. This is one of the origins of our practice of embedding relics in the altar to this day. Christians do not fear death. We view it with the eyes of faith as a change of habitation. The dates of commemorating those who witnessed to the faith by their heroic lives and deaths varied as local communities honored local saints and martyrs. Over time, those Feast days became more universally accepted as the rhythm of the Church Year became more uniform.

The first account we have of honoring all the saints is from St Ephrem the Syrian (d. AD 373). The great Bishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom (d. AD 407), set aside the first Sunday after Pentecost for this commemoration. The Church of the East still celebrates the Feast on that day. In the Western Church the date may have originally been on that date but was moved to May 13th. There is some evidence that the move to November 1 came with Pope Gregory III (d. AD 741), and was likely first observed on November 1st in Germany.

The Feast of All saints is our family Feast Day - when we honor all those who have died, marked with the sign of faith, and gone on before us to be with the Lord. They now beckon all of us into the fullness of the communion of love. The vigil of the Feast (the eve) came, in the English speaking world, to be known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween.

While some consider the current approach to Halloween to be mostly pagan in its practices, it is  the eve of this great Christian Feast of All Saints.It is time to restore customs which communicate the Christian confidence in our triumph over death in Christ and our bold rejection of the claim that evil has any more power over us.

In a special way on All Saints Day we commemorate all who have been honored by canonization, the process wherein the Church has acknowledged their extraordinary lives of holiness and holds them up as models and intercessors. This wonderful celebration is grounded in the most ancient of Church teaching concerning the Communion of Saints.

The Church proclaims that death does not separate us any longer because it was defeated by Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:28) We affirm and celebrate our eternal communion in Him - and with one another - through the Holy Spirit. We honor all of our brothers and sisters, known and unknown, who are a part of that great cloud of witnesses to which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews attests. (Heb. 12:1).

Just as we pray for one another, so those who have gone on before us pray for us and are joined to us forever in that communion of love. This ancient and firm belief is attested to in the earliest writings of the Christian tradition.

For example, St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 350) wrote: "We mention those who have fallen asleep: first the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition... (Catechetical Lecture 23:9).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this communion in these words: "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness...They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us...So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped....as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself: We worship Christ as God's Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord's disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples (CCC # 956, # 957)

So, on the evening when kids throughout our neighborhood and adjoining neighborhoods walk from door to door, collecting candy, we will leave our light on. I know that some of my readers will make a different decision. I respect that decision as well. Over the years that my wife and I were raising our children, and our grandchildren, we have tried both approaches. As you can tell, one won the day.

As for the growing pagan practices around us, I am not all that concerned. We are a missionary Church. That is why I use the term Pre-Christian to describe the state of the West - not Post Christian. This is a new missionary age and there is a lot of work to be done. I say, let's embrace what is good in our culture - and transform what is not. Halloween is just one more invitation to engage in Christian mission in this Year of Faith.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More U.S.

Alabama Supreme Court Recognizes Child in the Womb Has Fundamental Rights

Image of The Alabama Supreme Court

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Because a human life with a full genetic endowment comes into existence at the moment of conception, the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights encompasses the moment of conception. Legal ... continue reading


Help Make the Story of the Serial Killer/Abortionist Kermit Gosnell Into a Movie Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In 1852, the great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was invited to speak on the Fourth of July and delivered the now famous speech entitled What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. Here is a stirring quote from that famous speech: 'For it is not light that ... continue reading


Their Eyes Were Opened: Walk With Jesus on the Road to Emmaus Watch

Image of On the Road to Emmaus: In the light of the encounter with the Lord in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened. So it is meant to be with each one of us. The Holy Eucharist is more than a commemoration; it is an invitation into communion with the Living God - right now because Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead and walks with us on the road of life.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We are those disciples on the road to Emmaus, living our lives in the real world, walking along with Jesus who is always there accompanying us on the road, whether we recognize Him or not. He listens to us, and understands us, because he became like us, in "all ... continue reading


Made for Beauty: Liturgy and Music

Image of

By Deal W. Hudson

Some might flinch at my use of the word "satisfying" to describe a liturgy, but I used it deliberately because I want to think aloud about the fact that we were made for beauty as much as we were made for goodness and truth.  To be satisfied by the shape, ... continue reading


'COME AND TAKE IT' Texas AG blasts BLM scheming to seize state land, threatens fight Watch

Image of Texans are rallying against the federal government and its habitual overreach.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A major land war between the Bureau of Land Management and the state of Texas is brewing as Texas lawmakers push back against the feds plan to seize 90,000 acres of land along the Texas/Oklahoma border. AUSTIN, TEXAS (Catholic Online) - The Bureau of Land Management ... continue reading


SHOCKING NEW TWIST: Autistic boy defends teenage girls who filmed his sexual assault Watch

Image of The parents of the victim are insistent that they want their son's abuser, 17-year-old Lauren A. Bush to be tried as an adult.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Abused beyond belief by two teenage girls, who filmed their despicable activities with their cellphones, a 16-year-old autistic boy now says he doesn't want to press charges against them - concerned that it would damage their - "friendship?" LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Time to Live the Easter Way of Life Watch

Image of Easter is more than a Day; it is a way of living our lives in Jesus Christ. Darkness has been scattered by the Light which broke forth from that empty tomb. That Light is meant to infuse our daily lives with the radiance of Resurrected love.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The early Christians lived their lives in the Lord, for the sake of the world. They exhibited a holy boldness; because they internalized the faith they professed and allowed it to transform every aspect of their lives. They experienced the transforming power of ... continue reading


50,000-strong OK Militia declares they will resist federal takeover attempts Watch

Image of The Oklahoma Militia is ready to defend property against unlawful federal seizure.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Oklahoma militia which claims the allegiance of 50,000 members has sided with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in his recent clash against the feds. Although the standoff appears to be over, and is not likely to resume, the militia says it is ready to defend the rights ... continue reading


BLOODY EASTER WEEKEND IN CHICAGO: Six children shot in widespread violence Watch

Image of Five of the six children wounded, aged from 11 to 15 years, were shot during a drive-by shooting Sunday night.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With 36 people wounded, and nine people dead, it was one of the most violent Easter weekends in Chicago within recent memory. Far more shocking was the fact that six young children were among those injured. Gang violence remains prevalent on Chicago's windy ... continue reading


Militant atheist organization seeks to ban schools from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance Watch

Image of The AHA says that the line

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An organization of militant atheists is suing a New Jersey school district of discrimination, on the behalf of a family who take offense to the line "Under God," within the Pledge of Allegiance. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The lawsuit against the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 3:11-26
11 Everyone came running towards them in great ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 8:2, 5, 6-7, 8-9
2 even through the mouths of children, or of babes in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:35-48
35 Then they told their story of what had happened on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 24th, 2014 Image

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
April 24: Franciscan Capuchin martyr. He was born Mark Rey is Sigmaringen, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter