Oct 31, 2021

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.

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. Look to the example of Jesus in the witness of Pope Francis (as in Pope Benedict before him) seeking to dialogue with anyone who is open to honest, respectful and searching conversations.

The essential starting point for effective evangelisation 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.


  1. There is much wisdom in Feast days that bring unique individuals together, in celebration of the Way, the Truth and the Life. When w connect our celebration to Christ Jesus,, there is a spiritual feast at a deep level. My favorite Feast days are Ash Wednesday and Pentecost because they enclose Jesus’ promise of growth through crucifixion and resurrection with him. As for All Saints Day and All Souls Day, they bring us to the grater reality beyond our limited sensory system. We are reminded that Faith lives on in those who have gone before. All Souls also summons some words written by Samoan poet Albert Wendt: “Our ancestors are the beautiful garments our soul wears.”

  2. Dear John, what an inspiring and necessary reflection! I welcomed six excited little girls and boys at my front door last evening and rejoiced with them and their parents at an opportunity to support them in having something to celebrate in an otherwise difficult year even though they were not aware of its deeper significance. But their parents are kind snd generous neighbours – and are on their own path to ‘sainthood’ as Benedict wrote. Take care. Atohanui


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