Posted by: fvbcdm | October 31, 2011

Feast of Saint Wolfgang (31 Oct 2011)

This Monday is Hallowe’en Day, and I for one am very happy to see it finally arrive. Why? Because tomorrow it’ll be over with and we can AT LAST be freed of all the spooky, scary stuff that we are bombarded with in the media. I suppose I sound like Christmas’s Ebenezer Scrooge with his “Bah! Humbug!,” but all the Hallowe’en hype becomes more tedious as time goes on, and I’ve had more than my fill of monsters and vampires and ghosts.
 
The main reason I dislike all the ugliness associated with our secular observance of Hallowe’en is that it is so far removed from the origins of this popular day. So as to pass this day more in keeping with its roots, let’s ask ourselves what it’s all about to begin with.  A “Hallow” is a saint in medieval English.  So “All Hallows” in old England meant “All Saints.”  And as far back as the year 775, there is historical evidence that November 1 was associated with a celebration of all the saints in heaven—those we know of, and those we don’t.
 
So, as November 1st became more commonly known as “All Hallows,” its eve came to be called “All Hallows Eve” or “All Hallows Evening”—both meaning the night before the feast itself.  Going one step farther, we come to “All Hallows E’en, and then simply Hallowe’en.  Since the day following the church holyday and holiday of All Hallows was All Souls Day, it became customary for devout people to go visit the cemeteries where their loved ones were buried, there to clean up the graves and tombs and make sure that they were in respectable condition.  And what was sometimes in graveyards and cemeteries, especially in those days? Partially open graves or tombs, and bones which have not totally disintegrated.  Now we are in the category of the scary and spooky.  A skull, a corpse, if recently buried; the remains of human bodies.  And since with these morbid things occurring around the end of October and the beginning of November, there arose an association with pumpkins ripening in the fall gardens and fields.  It’s a short step from that to the idea of taking a sharp knife, carving eyes, nose, and mouth of a face into a large pumpkin and putting a candle inside it to make a grinning face, easily visible in the dark. And thus we get a “Jack-o-Lantern,” one of the things associated with Hallowe’en.
 
Years ago, I discovered that the pastor of one of the church parishes in St. Louis, Missouri, decided to make of Hallowe’en a more truly religious observance.  He asked for a group of volunteers who would participate in a REAL Hallowe’en observance. Each one was asked to dress in a costume representing a saint, and perhaps to carry some object associated with that saint.  A shamrock, a sword, a cross made of interwoven straw, etc. Then, on the night of October 31, a service was held in the parish church featuring the costumed “saints,” the recitation of the Litany of the Saints, and other appropriate prayers.  Now, THAT is a REAL Hallowe’en celebration, not just the spooky or morbid or scary things.  After all, “Hallowe’en” was intended to honor all the Hallows or Saints, and there is not much connection between our devotion to the saints and pumpkins, ghosts, spiders, and scary things.  There is nothing scary about the saints; on the contrary, they are some of our best friends and most powerful allies in our pilgrimage from earthly birth to heavenly reward.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

 

 

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