Linking up with Micaela on this Feast of All Saints, I couldn’t agree more with her 3 reasons to love Catholicism and have pretty much copied them here.
1. Eve of Hallowmas…All Hallow’s Eve…Halloween!
Catholics do holidays well! What is just one night of costumes and candy for most is, for Catholics, a trilogy of holidays designed to focus our minds on the Last Things: Death & Judgment.
This year my mom passed on to us what was one of my most favorite holiday decorations growing up…this skeleton put together by a friend of hers who is an x-ray technician–she saved discarded x-rays until she had an entire human body. The kids were so proud that our house was the spookiest on the block.
After dark, that is.
The kids went all out this year and made a haunted house for N. and me to walk through, complete with a bowl of slimy grape/eyeballs and plenty of ghosts popping out of closets. (Micaela has some great links up as to why Catholics do believe in ghosts!)
I liked this from Scott Richert (his comment on his own post about Halloween):
Halloween has no meaning by itself—that is, separate from the Feast of All Saints. That said, over the centuries, Christians—not pagans!—invested Halloween with significance by seeing the three days (the Eve of All Saints, All Saints, and All Souls) as a period in which we acknowledge the entire Catholic cosmology.
On the Eve of All Saints, we acknowledge—not celebrate—the reality of evil; on All Saints, we celebrate Christ’s triumph over evil, manifested in the lives of His saints; and on All Souls, we pray for those who, like us, still suffer from the effects of evil in this world. It’s all there—Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory.
I’d add that while we don’t “celebrate” evil, we can poke fun at it with silly, scary costumes and spooky music and games.
2. Next comes today’s Feast of All Saints.
As we heard at Mass today, this feast developed over the years as more and more people were martyred for the faith and it became impossible for Christians to honor every single one of them. Today it is the day to remind ourselves that ordinary people can become saints, and it is our calling. “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Many Catholic groups have All Saints Day parties where the kids dress up as their favorite saints. This sounds like fun, but I have to agree with Jen that it’s not as fun as it should be. I simply cannot come up with two sets of costumes in two days and this year we missed our party because we couldn’t think of any cowboy saints.
3. Tomorrow is the Feast of All Souls.
On this day we remember and pray for our “beloved dead,” all those we know who have passed from this life into the next. We pray for them to trust in Christ’s mercy when they come face to face with their Maker. Pope Emeritus Benedict (and others before him) have described purgatory as the refining fire of the love of Christ. Benedict says it better than I ever could (with my own emphases):
We all want a just world. Yet we cannot atone for all the destruction of the past, all the people unjustly tortured and killed. God alone can create justice, which must be justice for all, even for the dead, and as the great Marxist Adorno said, only the resurrection of the body, which he claimed as unreal, would be able to create justice. We believe in this resurrection of the body in which not all will be equal. Today people have become used to thinking: what is sin? God is great, he knows us, so sin does not count; in the end God will be kind to us all. It is a beautiful hope. But both justice and true guilt exist. Those who have destroyed man and the earth cannot suddenly sit down at God’s table together with their victims. God creates justice. We must keep this in mind.
Therefore, I felt it was important to write this text also about Purgatory, which for me is an obvious truth, so evident and also so necessary and comforting that it could not be absent. I tried to say: perhaps those who have destroyed themselves in this way, who are for ever unredeemable, who no longer possess any elements on which God’s love can rest, who no longer have a minimal capacity for loving, may not be so numerous. This would be Hell. On the other hand, those who are so pure that they can enter immediately into God’s communion are undoubtedly few – or at any rate not many. A great many of us hope that there is something in us that can be saved, that there may be in us a final desire to serve God and serve human beings, to live in accordance with God. Yet there are so very many wounds, there is so much filth. We need to be prepared, to be purified. This is our hope: even with so much dirt in our souls, in the end the Lord will give us the possibility, he will wash us at last with his goodness that comes from his Cross. In this way he makes us capable of being for him in eternity. And thus Heaven is hope, it is justice brought about at last.
My take on that is God’s justice demands that everyone have the opportunity to choose Christ right up to the moment of death. However, God’s justice also demands the existence of purgatory to purify those who died with less than perfect adherence to God’s will (our own conscience tells us that will be most all of us!).
So, tomorrow, we’ll give thanks for our loved ones who have died, pray for them, and ask them to pray for us. Foremost among our beloved dead are my and N.’s fathers, our kids’ “grandpas in heaven.”
And then, appropriately sobered, we’ll get ready for the holiday season!