By: Deacon Marques Silva
“All Hallows’ Eve” has become quite the industry here in the United States. Revered Catholic traditions and devotions that have been deeply rooted in our cultures have seemingly been eclipsed by a quick trip to the costume aisle in Walmart.
Still, many families continue to practice our devotions related to Halloween and I thought I would share one or two. Traditionally, on All Soul’s Day (the day after All Saints’ Day), the poor begged for food and promised to pray for the dead in return. The food that was passed out was known as soul cakes (round little cakes with holes in the center to represent eternity). This practice not only encouraged the feeding of the poor, but also reminded us of the time honored practice of praying for the dead. Sound familiar? Reminds me of the secular practice known as trick-or-treating.
Additionally, the practice of going to the cemetery on All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) was not so much for spooky reasons or to play “Ghost in the Graveyard”, but to have a picnic. Yep, I said picnic. Creepy? Not really. It is for the same reason that Americans on Memorial Day host picnics on battlefields and cemeteries – to honor those who have fallen and gone before us.
It shouldn’t surprise us that society adapts our religious traditions when religion fails to explain what and why we do what we do. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it best in paragraph 1207:
It is fitting that liturgical celebration tends to express itself in the culture of the people where the Church finds herself, though without being submissive to it. Moreover, the liturgy itself generates cultures and shapes them.
Maybe this year for All Hallows’ Eve we can insert some of our traditions back into our family’s customs and evangelize our culture. At the end of the day, and, more importantly, at the end of our lives, we need our children and our children’s children to understand the purpose and practice of All Hallows’ Eve. Who will pray for us and the suffrage of the dead if they are not taught? If not you, who? If not now, when?
All holy men and women of God, pray for us!