People have always had a need for annual moments in a year that are highly ritualised around social gatherings with food and drink. Halloween has relatively recently become one such significant day on every town calendar.
The marking of Halloween (literally “All Saints Eve”), became significant for Christians who were preparing to celebrate the feast of All Saints the following day. (more on the feast tomorrow)
Few of those for whom Halloween is significant will give the Communion of Saints a thought. In the same way the Christian celebrations of Easter and Ash Wednesday, Christmas and Advent, have been over-shadowed by secular rituals of bunnies and eggs, Mardi Gras, Carnival, and presents and shopping. Those who do not give Jesus a thought still have a deep need for rituals of social gathering and our Christian feasts have provided a good opportunity.
There is little to be gained by Christians who set out to oppose the secularization of our major Christian feasts. Such zealous efforts will simply reinforce the “Christians are killjoys” stereotype.
And let’s be honest too: Christians have worked hard for the “killjoy” reputation. Too often our proclamation of the good news has had little to do with faith in Jesus Christ, and everything to do with rules and regulations. Sure, our intentions may have been good, but we often emphasised the points and missed the person, Jesus, who is the one who gives life.
I am often haunted by William Blake’s poem, “The Garden of Love”:
…And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.
Perhaps I need to clarify that I am not dismissing the importance of sound doctrine. It is our robust Catholic doctrine that reminds us that a life of masking our true identity and scaring strangers can never bring us the happiness we seek.
Christians achieve little by setting themselves up in violent opposition to those who see things differently. It is true that Christians do see everything and everyone in a different way. But our defensiveness does us no favours. The example of Jesus in the witness of Pope Francis (as in Pope Benedict before him) as he seeks to dialogue with anyone who is open to honest, respectful and searching conversations.
The essential starting point for effective evangelization is loving and respectful dialogue in every encounter, even when it happens in an inconvenient evening moment on the doorstep with half a dozen strangely dressed young neighbours.
So I’m off to buy a supply of sweets, and I already have a good supply of small icon images of Christ. Anyone knocking on my door tonight will receive some of each.
I couldn’t agree more. William Blake also wrote: “The vision of Christ that thou does see, is my vision’s greatest enemy. We both read the Bible day and night, but thou reads black while I read white.” This may sound harsh but I think Blake was trying to make the same point – if it’s not good news it is not THE GOOD NEWS. I need to keep asking myself: “Does my faith make Christianity attractive to others?”
How would you know if it was or it wasn’t? Sometimes the faith of others shook me up and I don’t think my response would have given them much comfort that I found it attractive….but in fact over the course of my life it was their fidelity…uncomfortable to me at the time….which gave me a change of heart. Its not all roses at the borderlands…..so indeed how would you know your faith was attractive or not and by who’s measure? Christ’s or your own?
I had real problems with the ‘gimme gimme candy’ attitude of Halloween. The real fun is how much effort the little Halloweenies put into their costumes and wander the neighbourhood with their folks. My kids cringe when I would hand out little holy cards with Chuppa-chups attached and I would cringe to see those same cards crumpled in the gutter a few doors down. This time I added the following message on our front door and we had success.
we don’t celebrate Halloween,
we do celebrate All Saint’s Day.
if you can say who your favourite saint is, there is a treat for you.
(Hint: Who is Australia’s first saint…Mary McK******)
I had to pay treats to one parent who claimed their favourite saint was St Kilda footballer Nick Reiwoldt….
Although kids and their parents are dressed as ghouls and creative nasties, it’s a festive time and I use it as an opportunity to have some fun and get involved and put the focus where it should be. The interaction with the Halloweenies is wonderful and we have lots of laughter so the whole encounter is a treat.