Halloween is a derivative of All Hallow’s Eve, Hallows being an old English expression for saints, een being a contraction of evening, hence the evening of All Saints Day, the latter being a Solemnity and a Holy Day of Obligation. This is an ancient feast established by the Church in the eighth century. Therefore, this is truly a very special Catholic feast day.
The rise of the occult and Satanism is a threat to the sacredness of the public celebration of Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. The secularization of society is a major contributing factor. As concern for Heaven and belief in Purgatory and Hell has waned among Catholics, which is part of the crisis in the Church, any sacredness to All Hallow’s Eve is becoming completely lost. In the face of strong cultural trends which have nothing to do with Christianity. The cultural norms treat All Hallows Eve simply as a day of party, ghost/skeleton/demon costumes with no real reference to the source of the day which is to honor the saints and then pray for the souls in Purgatory. While children might innocently partake in this, parents should explain to them the real meaning of Halloween. The modern custom of dressing up and going door to door for candy is the American version of former Irish and English traditions, as well as others. It comes from a tradition of going door-to-door to exchange soul cakes for prayers for the faithful departed in that home.
This may sound creepy to us today, but it is an ancient practice that originated in Catholic countries as a result of the constant exposure to plagues and death. The Dance of Death emerged in a time (mid 14th C.) of frequent epidemics and death. “In these plays,” the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “Death appeared not as the destroyer, but as the messenger of God summoning men to the world beyond the grave, a conception familiar both to the Holy Bible and to the ancient poets.”It continues, stating that the purpose of these plays was to teach the truth that all must die and should therefore prepare themselves to appear before their Judge. Evidence for these plays has been found in Germany, Spain, Belgium, France, England, and Italy. Italy also had something known as the “Triumph of Death.”
These “dance of death” scenes were eventually painted on the walls of cemeteries, on charnel houses, in mortuary chapels, and in Churches. Engravers dedicated themselves to the art of the “dance of death,” most notably Hans Holbein, whose works have been regarded as the most famous, and have been reproduced and reissued since they were created in the mid 1500s. Alfred Rethel, in the mid 1800s began producing similar dance of death scenes, such as the one titled “Dance of Death – Death as a Friend.” Another example of the historical value of reflecting on death is seen in the famous Capuchin Crypt, which is filled, artistically, with 500,000 bones from both 3700 Capuchin monks from all over the world and the poor of Italy who were served by them. These bones were collected until 1870.
A lot of the issues around Halloween revolve around the intention of the individual: why are we doing what we are doing? Do we dress up like a skeleton in the spirit of the “dance of death” and memento mori – or – do we dress up like a skeleton to embrace a spirit of death and nothingness? The surrounding context can help reveal the individual person’s intent and help children, for example, understand the reason for seeing things such as skeletons. Death is something that does not spare children, but they also do not yet fully understand it. That being said, they are capable, particularly with the aid of divine grace and the truths of Divine Revelation, of understanding death and preparing for it properly. So, seeing death at Halloween is not offensive to Catholic sentiment, though it may need explanation to children. But isn’t that why we have festivals, feasts, plays, Stations of the Cross, stained-glass windows, etc.? Are they not teaching moments and opportunities to learn about God’s will and ways, and the path that leads to eternal life?
With all of the conflicting opinions on Halloween, one thing we can truly see is that the agents of Heaven and the agents of Hell are, today, clearly at war on Halloween. When the Church of Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, is celebrating the victory of Christ who triumphs in His Saints and His Elect, Hell is more and more sneaking onto the scene to undermine this sacred work. Hallowstide is not a time where Hell has more power, as many pagans believe – just the opposite – Hell faces Heaven’s fury in a particular way as more graces are made available to the faithful, such as the graces of the Holy Day and the plenary indulgences for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. Hell, then, through the fallen world which embraces Satan and the occult, would love to distract Christians away from these graces and toward fear and the fright of hopeless death.
Analyze the approach to Halloween. Purge what does not orient the family toward holiness. Reinvigorate the sacredness and Catholic creativity of the Feast. Create new and sacred traditions, concerning the Evening of All Saints. Pray and go to Mass. Do good. Avoid evil. Invoke the Saints. Pray for the Souls in Purgatory. Pray to St. Joseph. (END)
A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful who: (1) on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed; (2) on All Souls’ Day devoutly visit a church or oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.
A partial indulgence applicable only to the souls in Purgatory is granted to faithful who (1) devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead; (2) devoutly recite Lauds or Vespers from the Office of the Dead or the Prayer Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine on them. May they rest in peace!
The day of wrath, that day,
will dissolve the world in ashes:
(this is) the testimony of (both) David and the Sibyl.
How great will be the quaking,
when the Judge is about to come,
strictly investigating all things!
The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound
through the sepulchres of the regions,
will summon all before the throne.
Death and nature will marvel,
when the creature will rise again,
to respond to the Judge.
The written book will be brought forth,
in which all is contained,
from which the world shall be judged.
When therefore the Judge will sit,
whatever lies hidden, will appear:
nothing will remain unpunished.
What then shall I, poor wretch [that I am], say?
Which patron shall I entreat,
when [even] the just may [only] hardly be sure?
King of fearsome majesty,
Who gladly save those fit to be saved,
save me, O fount of mercy.
Remember, merciful Jesus,
that I am the cause of Your journey:
lest You lose me in that day.
Seeking me, You rested, tired:
You redeemed [me], having suffered the Cross:
let not such hardship be in vain.
Just Judge of vengeance,
make a gift of remission
before the day of reckoning.
I sigh, like the guilty one:
my face reddens in guilt:
Spare the imploring one, O God.
You Who absolved Mary,
and heard the robber,
gave hope to me also.
My prayers are not worthy:
but You, [Who are] good, graciously grant
that I be not burned up by the everlasting fire.
Grant me a place among the sheep,
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me on the right side.
Once the cursed have been silenced,
sentenced to acrid flames,
Call me, with the blessed.
[Humbly] kneeling and bowed I pray,
[my] heart crushed as ashes:
take care of my end.
Tearful [will be] that day,
on which from the glowing embers will arise
the guilty man who is to be judged:
Then spare him, O God.
Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.