I am going to have a little different focus this weekend. Some may think it is “too little too late” because Halloween is already past. But the topic is nonetheless important. As was in last weekend’s bulletin, the history of Halloween resides, first of all, in Catholic theology and prayer for the souls in purgatory. The children would receive a gift of bread from the home of someone who had died, and they would pray for that person.
Well, most of us are aware that the Protestant movement does not like the idea of praying for the dead. They also do not like the idea of purgatory. But both of these issues are eminently reasonable, and Biblical. I do not want to spend a lot of time describing that reasonableness. But it is clearly Catholic teaching.
In addition, society, as such, or should I say the candy companies, have co-opted the idea of bread for something else that the children would want. Just like Hallmark cards has changed the meaning of Valentine’s Day. Just like there has been a huge commercialization of Christmas by our society and our stores.
And there is yet a third attack that some people are rightly concerned over. That is the influence of the demonic on the celebration of Halloween. Yes, it is known, and seems to be true that this season is of big importance for Satanic worshipers. Yet what they do is done in a mockery of our Catholic faith. Why ours? Because ours is true.
Should we be worried about this third point? I do not think we need to worry as much about that as we need to worry about the first of the three influences that I have mentioned. The most serious attack on the understanding of the value of All Saints and All Souls Days comes from the evangelical hatred for all things Catholic. The reason it is such a serious problem is because they believe that Catholics are not worshiping truly. So they tie what they see of our Catholic worship with paganism, and satanism.
This is a total distortion of what we truly believe. We see the Body of Christ as having three parts, in one sense. Those three parts, I mentioned on all saints day, are: the church militant, the church suffering, the church triumphant. We are the church militant, as long as we live here on earth. The reason we are militant is because we are fighting against evil, and distortions of truth, and anything that goes against God in any way. The Protestant revolution has distorted the truth of the gospel, in this and many other ideas.
Because of their distortions, many Catholics are confused about why we do the things we do for the sake of the dead. We are called to pray for the Body of Christ, wherever it is in need. The saints in heaven do not need our prayers; the saints in purgatory do need our prayers; those condemned to hell cannot use our prayers; the saints here on earth need our prayers, and the work we can do for them to help them grow in holiness.
But, evangelicals, and other Protestants, reject the idea that we can pray for any and every member of the body of Christ. They also reject the idea of purgatory, as I said earlier. Because of this rejection, they do not see a need for praying for those who have died. So, they see any attempt on our side of Christianity as a false piety that is connected with either paganism or satanism.
This is just not true. Is there a danger in satanism in our world today? I am convinced the danger is more real than it has been in centuries! And I believe we are seeing some of that effect in the problems we are having within the church and it’s clergy. That is why we started praying the St. Michael prayer at the end of every Mass.
Our society itself is very much lost in the ways of holiness and truth. Those two things are intimately connected, holiness and truth. But so many parts of our society do not want to admit that. Because of that unwillingness to admit to the value of holiness and truth, they are allowing much more room for evil to succeed in tearing apart our society.
It does not take a lot of looking at the news today to see just how pervasive evil has become. To try to stand in holiness in our day today means that we will be ridiculed, even shunned as bigots. This is the foothold that evil has in our society.
Because of the battle that is coming against us in all three ways that I described (non-Catholic Christians, society in general, and attacks of the devil). We need to be even more vigilant with the true stories of our faith, the true reasons for our faith. The distortions of all three of these directed attacks have caused great confusion among Catholics.
Now, if you ask me to classify which is the most dangerous, the order would be very different than what I just gave you. Even though I spoke more about the evangelical distortions, I am convinced that in level of dangerousness to the faith, the order of these three battles would be: the attacks of the devil; then non-Catholic Christians; and our society. In that order. Because of this, we need to become better informed about the history of our faith and the spirituality of our faith. God’s people are perishing because of the lack of good knowledge.
Now, back to Halloween, the way in which it is currently being used by most everybody around us is a terrible distortion. Maybe next year, when you hand out candy to the kids, you can wrap each piece of candy with a little piece of paper saying “pray for my family.” Why not?
During this month, when the church spends time praying for the dead – it is not just All Saints Day and All Souls Day, but the entire month of November – let us remember those who have died from the parish, especially. We see the names of those who died from this last year here in front of us with these candles.
Also, spent some time this month remembering those of your own family who have died over the years.