– Miguel Augusto (*)
“Hallowe’en” is a word that first appeared in the 16th century, and is a Scottish variant of “All-Hallows-Evening,” that is, the night before “All Hallows,” which means “All Saints.” The real Halloween party is of Christian origin. Some neo-pagan currents have attempted to relate it to the Celtic feast of Samhain, which is not actually on a particular date, such as November 1. How should we as Catholics, think about Halloween? Is it possible to celebrate it in a healthy and Christian way today?
Halloween has its origins in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church in which, on October 31, it observes the eve of the Solemnity of All Saints – All Hallows’ Eve.
On November 1, we celebrate all the saints in heaven, the majority of whom are not known to us because the Church has not publicly proclaimed them. Indeed, the “publicly-listed” saints are not many. The reason the Church publicly proclaims some saints is to give all Christians some models to imitate and to provide them with intercessors before God. So, on November 1, we celebrate all those in heaven: the “Church Triumphant.” In this way, the Church also reminds us that no matter our age or health or occupation or status, we are all called to be holy. Those of us who are still on earth, the “Church Militant,” are urged to wage a battle against our own weaknesses and against the devil.
Moreover, on November 2, we pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: the Church Suffering. They are assured of enjoying heaven someday, but happily undergo purification from their venial faults and unfinished penances with the fire of divine Love.
The Feast of all Holy Men and Women (All Hallows) is a Christian feast that emerged in the 7th century, when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the ancient pagan Roman Pantheon (“all gods”) to Our Lady and to all the martyrs, thus making it a Christian place of worship.
Holy Ephrem, the Syrian, in the fourth century, testified that the Eastern Church celebrated the feast of “All Martyrs”” on 13 May. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III changed the feast day from May 13 to November 1, celebrating together the day of all the Apostles, Martyrs, Holy and Just Confessors of the Church, dedicating to them on that date an oratory where today stands the Basilica of St Peter.
The final and complete recognition of this festivity and its extension, not only in the diocese of Rome, arrived with Pope Gregory IV in 835 AD, when he asked the emperor-king, Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, to mark the feast of November 1st for the entire Holy Empire.
The Pagan Halloween
Today, however, Halloween is often paganized and influenced by social factors.
The pagan Halloween is a feast that unites tenebrous aspects of magic, fertility, change of cycles, thanksgiving for the bright months of the year, and petitions for protection in the dark months; sometimes seeking even the contact with the dead… these practices touch darkness, old beliefs and mythologies.
Many priests linked to the ministry of exorcism warn against the connections of these practices to the occult.
With this superstition, man places himself in a position of dependence on created nature, away from the Christian religion, which shows God as Lord of Creation, and his Son Jesus Christ – God and true man – as the one before whom everyone should submit.
However, most of those who live these feasts do so only by social influence, by popular culture, fuelled by consumerism and its marketing methods.
Children often wear allegorical costumes of pagan Halloween – promoting terror, fear, blood, monsters or elements with satanic imagery – just because all other children do, often at school, or at children’s parties. All this is absorbed by the child, and will be part of his or her formation.
In 1985, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said, “The atheist culture of the modern West still lives thanks to the liberation of the fear of demons that Christianity brought. But if this redemptive light of Christ were to be extinguished, the world would fall into terror and despair with all its technology, despite its great knowledge. There are already signs of this return of obscure forces, while in the secularized world satanic cults rise.”
Many exorcist priests attest in their ministry, to the existence of spiritual (diabolical) contamination, affecting children and young people, who participate in the seemingly “harmless”” parties or cults.
These and other priests recommend to Catholic families that they avoid getting involved in these celebrations, and instead of dressing the children up as wizards, devils, and the like, they should let them wear the clothing of saints, because after all, it is that’s actually what we’re celebrating on All Hallows Eve. That’s what the Church has always taught since the time of Christ: that we are all called to holiness.
(*) with Aleteia and Fr Paulo Ricardo (theologian/evangelizer)
Pope Francis appeals to holiness
“7. I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness.’”
“10. All this is important. Yet with this Exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Pt 1:16). The Second Vatican Council stated this clearly: ‘Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect.’”
Pope Francis, Gaudete et exsultate