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Friday, October 30, 2009

All Hallows Eve - Halloween

All Hallows Eve
October 31

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
think about such things
Philippians 4:8
It is time for Halloween once again. Each year I dread this 24 hour period, overwhelmed with worry about the well-being of family and friends celebrating an overgrown, big business, secular holiday that comes close to rivaling Christmas for the level of decoration and preparation. For those who don’t value devotion to the saints, All Hallows Eve has become “hollow” instead of “hallow.” This year I plan to take back Halloween to its original Christian Catholic roots.

Frankly, I love this time of year, crisp air, cool fog, trees turning color, days growing shorter, rain just around the corner. I just think things have gotten a bit out of control when Halloween is hyped by huge street parties, where revelers dress to, quite plainly, be seen. And drink, quite literally, a bit more than does a body good. This at times could lead one to do things they might later regret, if remember at all. A nightmare in more than just costumes, as police and paramedics put their own life on the line “baby sitting” celebrants, ready to rescue or control at a moments notice. Not to mention possible vandalism to personal property when drugs or alcohol prods one to be a bit more uninhibited than usual.

After 26 years, Halloween in the Castro was shut down in 2006, following injuries to seven people who were shot and multiple people who were stabbed in a crowd of 200,000 during that year’s celebration. But instead of worrying about needless violence and decadence, I say it’s time to take Halloween back!!! Who is coming with me? Don’t all jump up at once!!!

According to Webster’s dictionary Halloween is short for All Hallow Even. Hallow means holy or set apart and hallows means holy ones. 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. Eve means before festivities. Putting this all together Halloween really stands for the evening before a holy day set apart for holy ones, or saints. Webster’s also lists All Hallow Even to mean All Saint’s Eve. And actually this is exactly what Halloween is, the evening or vigil before All Saints Day.

What is All Saints Day? As far back as the 4th century Christians solemnized or honored the anniversary of a martyr’s death. A martyr, meaning witness, was a person who voluntarily suffered death as a penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce their religion. Early Christians were frequently martyred, some in groups, and as the persecution of Christians continued their number grew to be so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each.

We read of a common feast being asked for in the sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian in 373, and in 397 by Saint Basil of Caesarea, and in the 74th homily of Saint John Chrysostom in the year 407. In 411 the holiday was placed on the Friday after Easter. In approximately 609, Pope Boniface IV placed the anniversary for the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs on May 13. Finally Pope Gregory III in the 8th century consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for November 1. In the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration on November 1 to the entire Church. (From All Saints’ Day, Catholic Encyclopedia)

All Saints Day, November 1, or the vigil of All Saints Day, popularly called Halloween, on October 31 has thus been faithfully celebrated as a Catholic solemnity for over 1100 years. But as with many Catholic Christian holidays, the secular world has attached its own traditions, such as costumes, trick-or-treating, parties, as well as other customs, not all of which are intrinsically wrong, but could become problematic when the activity becomes unwholesome or evil and actually leads a person on a path of temptation and destruction.

Dressing up as a saint brings Halloween back to its roots. And if you think that dressing as a saint won’t be ghoulish enough, think again. Picture if you will a procession of saints. All saints do not have to be martyrs, but clearly these make for the most gruesome costumes. Leading the way will be Saint Thomas More walking proudly with his head tucked under his arm. Beheaded in 1535 for refusing to render allegiance to King Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England, Saint Thomas More told the crowd of spectators as he awaited his execution, that he was dying as “the King’s good servant – but God’s first.”

Not macabre enough? Next in line rolls Saint Lawrence roasting over a slow burning fire. Saint Lawrence made sport of his pain by saying, " I am done enough, eat, if you will." Saint Lawrence’s crime in 258 was to be a deacon in the Catholic Church. The Roman Emperor Valerian did not have a liking for Catholic bishops, priests, and deacons and ordered them all put to death.

I certainly don’t want to be called sexist, so next in line proceeds Saint Joan of Arc. She arrives, not on the strong steed she road into battle against the English, but walking tall, dragging her pile of stakes as they burn brilliantly against her back and engulf her feet.

Born a peasant, Saint Joan of Arc led a small army against the English enemies of France at age 17. Her crime, the voice of God she heard in her head which correctly and carefully allowed France to be victorious in battle. She was burned at the stake at 19 years of age for heresy.

If ghoulish saints do not thrill you, there are hundreds of fascinating saints to choose from. Celebrated in a positive manner, Halloween can be a reminder of human mortality and the need for everyone to prepare to face God. Everything in this life either brings you closer to God and salvation, or a step away from Him and on a path to evil and ruin. Choices in life are clearly not always easy to make. But they do have to be made.

Now might be a good time to renew your baptismal promises and recite the Prayer of Saint Michael the Archangel.

Baptismal Promises
Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? I do.
Do you reject the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin? I do.
Do reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness? I do.

Prayer to Saint Michael
May Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in the day of battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness
and snares of the devil;
May God rebuke him,
we humbly pray;
And do thou,
O Prince of the Heavenly host,
By the divine power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits
Who wander through the world
Seeking the ruin of souls. Amen
Happy All Hallows Eve, and I've just got to say it or I have to turn in my "Mother Card", please, be careful out there.

Litany of Saints
Beheading of Saint Thomas More
Saint Laurence Martyred
Saint Joan of Arc at the Stake

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