Blessed All Souls Day!

woman crying at graveWe all have family members, friends, and others we know who have departed this life. They may have been faithful Catholics or other Christians, but nonetheless had their faults.

Although we believe in prayers for the souls of the dead, maybe we don’t always get around to actually doing it. Today is the day when we, as a Church, remember them.

Here a few practices you can do to remember the dead on All Souls Day:

Attend a Mass

Go to a daily mass and offer it up for your departed friends and relatives. You can also join your requests to the prayers of the worldwide Church.

Pray For the Souls of the Dead

November is actually the month of All Souls. So, not only is it a good practice to pray for the souls of the dead today, resolve to pray for them throughout the entire month of Novemebr.

Here is a list of All Souls Prayer Resources.

Visit A Cemetery

Even if you’re not Hispanic and interested in their Day of the Dead traditions, All Souls is a good day to visit the graves of your relatives, if anything to make sure everything is kept up and in good order.

Hopefully, you can have a meaningful All Souls Day. For more about the day, please visit our All Souls Day page. We leave you with the traditional prayer for the departed:

Eternal Rest grant unto them (him/her),O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them (him/her).
May they (he/she) rest in peace.

 

Happy Feast Day of All Saints!

Icon of All SaintsDo you have a grandma that everyone swore was a saint? What about that priest who lived a very holy life and helped you come to know God more intimately?

We all know those individuals (or have heard of them) who lived holy lives, but are nonetheless not officially honored officially by the Church. Today, All Saints Day (November 1) is their day.

In addition to those unknown saints, All Saints Day also celebrates those Saints who are known to and recognized by the Church. This includes those that we may not find on the general calendar even though they have been officially canonized.

Perhaps they are best known to a region, a town, or even a religious order. They receive honor and celebration in those contexts, but the average Catholic may  not even know about them. We honor them on All Saints Day too.

In addition to the obligatory mass, a good way to celebrate All Saints Day is to remember them in some way. You can pray a Litany of the Saints, find a devotion to someone more obscure, or read a little bit about some of the unfamiliar ones. Whatever you choose, we hope you have a happy and blessed All Saints Day.

For more information on the history and practices of the holiday, please visit our All Saints Day page.

Happy Halloween

A black and white image of a cemetery for HalloweenI hope everyone has a happy Halloween! Today, October 31st, is the evening before the Solemnity of All Saints. In many countries, this day is a holiday unto itself, albeit more secular in nature that All Saints itself.

Today across the world, children will trick-or-treat, dress up in funny or scary costumes, and shiver at a ghost story or two. It is generally harmless fun as we explore the more eerie side of life and ourselves.

However, we also must remember the importance of the two upcoming celebrations within the Church, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. This is the time of year when we honor Christian men and women. This is a period of great celebration and meaning as we recall Christian saints and souls, those who are in Christ’s presence, and those whom we pray to be. In other words, if we understand their meaning, there is much, much more to do than just hand out candy.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Is Halloween Evil?

When I used to hang out on Christian forums and blogs, I would always encounter people that were “anti-Halloween.” Growing up, I remember seeing the same thing. Local churches would have “harvest parties” or stage “hell houses,” and certain kids wouldn’t show up at trick-or-treat, all in the name of avoiding the taint of Halloween.

I can see why some Christians don’t like Halloween. Some costumes are risque or downright violent. Some people do use Halloween as a time to do bad things around the community, such as vandalism. And some of the themes of Halloween, such as witches and evil spirits, are not things to be taken lightly as Christians.

However, let’s be honest. For most Christians celebrating the holiday, it is just a time of fun. It is a time to dress up, get some candy, and enjoy the crisp fall weather. It is also time to get spooked a little, without any real consequences from it. I have heard it said it is a “gateway” to evil, but I have never met a kid that wanted to be a witch after dressing up as one for Halloween (who would want to look like an evil hag anyway??). Kids that are raised properly will clearly know the line between pretending and reality.

Also, as Catholics, we know that Halloween is simply the eve of All Saints Day. It is really a time to celebrate the great saints that have blessed the Church. Even though pagan customs are now associated with the holiday (such as Jack O Lanterns, wearing masks, etc), I know of no Christian that gives any of these practices pagan meanings. Many of the online “Halloween haters” always talk about Christians that celebrate Halloween being pagans. Like I said, I know of no Christian who celebrates Halloween that is a pagan.

I also find it funny that some Christians accuse Catholics of taking a pagan feast and Christianizing it. Maybe we did do that. Nonetheless, by switching out Halloween for “harvest festivals” or “hell houses” they are doing the exact same thing. They are taking aspects of the “pagan” holiday (such as masks, scary scenes, etc) and transforming them in a way that they believe to be Christian. That is kind of what Catholics did when we scheduled All Saints Day (although I think evidence suggests the date was not chosen to coincide with the pagan Samhain, at least not purposefully).

Either way, I like Halloween. I think the real Halloween, connected to All Saints, is much richer than the secular holiday. If you want to totally avoid the secular stuff, this is a great day to teach kids about the saints, and give them a chance to dress up as one of God’s holy ones. Nonetheless, trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and wearing costumes probably aren’t going to damn your soul, and may make the autumn a little more fun and let the Halloween haters hate.

We have collected some Halloween prayers you may be interested in.

Michaelmas – Conquering Your Personal Dragons

My wife has been reading about the Waldorf School, which I don’t know much about, except that some of their dolls are featureless, which kind of creeps me out.

At any rate, as St. Michael and All Angels rolls around (i.e. Michaelmas) on September 29th, the Waldorf School provides an interesting perspective on this feast. Waldorf types view Michaelmas as a time to conquer personal dragons, kind of like a personal “fall cleaning.” Since Michaelmas was one of the traditional “quarter days” it is a great time to “take inventory” of your life, anticipating Advent by a few months.

I like the imagery. We all have dragons that need slaying: thoughts, tendencies, and actions that separate us from God and from each other. Do we love enough? Are we compassionate? Do we strive toward holiness? In other words, do we really love God and neighbor?

Some of our dragons are venial sins, which are easily slayed, even if they pop up a lot. Others are huge, menacing dragons that are mortal sins, which cut us off from God. But, we know that with the grace of God, the examples of the saints, and the wisdom of the Church, we can inch toward holiness and wound these dragons, even perhaps slay them.

Saint Michael the Archangel, be our defender in battle! –> Full Saint Michael Prayer.

Just Another Day?

I heard someone say today was “just another day.” As Christians, we believe every day is a part of God’s creation, and thus redeemed and sanctified at the Incarnation of Christ. Thus, a day made holy by Christ, and declared “good” as part of God’s creation (see Genesis 1), is always more than “just another day.” In fact, the created world around us reflects God’s glory, and its beauty and order are signs of his existence.

Perspective determines how we see each day. Obviously the same day exists for everyone to experience, yet one person sees a chance to enjoy God’s creation, and another sees a bad opportunity waiting to happen.

I challenge all of us to remember that today was created and sanctified by our Lord, and approach it as such!

Ordinary Time a Break From Church?

Many Christians perceive Ordinary Time as a “break” from the Church Year, or else a time when we remember everything about Jesus we couldn’t fit in elsewhere. However, Ordinary Time is much richer than this.

Ordinary Time is devoted to “the mystery of Christ in all its aspects.” This means that Ordinary Time is when we celebrate the entirety of the mystery of Christ, as opposed to distinct aspects in other parts of the year. In a sense, this is what is “ordinary” for Christians anyway, that is the complete mystery of Christ, his entire life, death, resurrection, teachings, and so forth.