Finding the ‘Hallow’ in Halloween
Collective Worship / Secondary / Primary / Catholic
Writer: Angela Wood
On the eve of All Hallows…
…or as most of us know it, Halloween – children and adults dress in skeleton, witch or ghoul costumes, surrounded by cobwebs, images of graveyards and terrifying accessories to celebrate the seasonal trick or treat fest with sugar highs and scary frights! This imagery echoes something from a zombie or apocalypse movie, and definitely doesn’t echo the beautiful Solemnity of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls: these are, in fact, far removed from celebrating darkness or thinking of the dead in a scary way. Instead, the Church celebrates, honours and prays for those who have died.
All Saints’ Day
All Saints’ Day is the day set aside to remember all those throughout history who have been ‘models of faith’ (CCC, paragraph 828); those who have been great witnesses of love and truth.
Pope Francis describes the saints as, ‘windows which allow light to enter in different shade of colour.’ He says of these amazing men and women that they are ‘the most authoritative witnesses of Christian hope, because they lived it fully in their lives, amidst joys and sufferings, putting into practice the Beatitudes that Jesus preached.’ (Pope Francis, 1st November 2020).
Not All Saints Are Famous
There are so many Saints it is impossible to count! There are so many Saints it is impossible to count! It’s not just the famous Saints that the Church has recognised through the process of canonisation that we remember on their specific feast days throughout the liturgical year, but the unknown Saints too. People from every nation, race, tribe, and language. Maybe even our own friends and relatives who, having welcomed the light of God into their own hearts, now pass this light onto us! A good teacher, an inspiring priest, an elderly person forever in prayer at the back of church, a self-sacrificing parent – these are the everyday Saints that we may have known. They are our friends; our Church family whose witness of faith encourages us.
When the Saints pray for us, their intercessory prayers cheer us on as we travel our journey of faith. In the video below, Fr. Mike Schmitz captures something of our need for this prayer and encouragement from all the Saints in his description of an Ironman race. Those who completed the long, difficult, extreme race stay to cheer on those who have yet to finish their race, their cheers and support helping them get across the line.
All Souls’ Day
It’s very fitting that the celebration of All Saints is followed by an annual memorial for All Souls. On All Souls’ Day, and throughout November, we pray for the faithful departed: that they may enter eternal happiness in God’s presence. This nurtures our hope in the heavenly resurrection for our loved ones. There are very few of us who haven’t been touched by the death of a loved one. But we believe that death doesn’t end our relationships, for ‘life is changed, not ended.’ (CCC, 1012)
The YouCat explains that ‘our love extends into the afterlife. Through our fasting, prayers, and good works, but especially through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we can obtain grace for the departed.’ (YouCat 159-160)
Scripture encourages us that it is ‘holy and wholesome to pray for the dead,’ (2 Maccabees 12:45) and that we have an important job to keep those who have died in our prayers.
Celebrating All Saints with Children
- Maybe next year, instead of inviting pupils to dress up with the fancy dress of ghosts and witches and skeletons, you could perhaps host an All Saints’ Day party – where children are encouraged to dress up as famous Saints that they have learnt about!
- In school, you may have a Book of Remembrance in which children can add the names of their loved ones who have died. These names could then be offered at a school Mass. Having a short time of reflection during Collective Worship could be an opportunity for students to give thanks for the gifts of those who have died.
- For those who subscribe to Primary Collective Worship with Ten Ten, we have provided a number of resources that develop further understanding of All Saints and All Souls, including:
- ‘Praying with the Saints’ – Daily Prayers for the first week of November, which reflect upon the inspiration of specific Saints’ lives, tying in with the Beatitudes.
- ‘All Saints and All Souls’ – a dedicated assembly to explore and celebrate these special occasions
- ‘Past, Present and Future’ – Daily Classroom Prayers for the third week of November, which provide an opportunity to pray for those who have died
- A dedicated Bereavement resource to be released during National Grief Awareness Week (w/c 6 December)
One Final Thought
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that ‘the Church is the holy people of God and her members are called ‘Saints’’ (CCC, 823). This applies to ALL of us in the Church, the dead and the living: we are all called to holiness, to be Saints. This seems like a huge challenge, but we should remember that Saints are simply ordinary people, saying ‘yes’ to God. He is the one who makes our lives extraordinary and it is His grace in our lives that makes us holy – or should I say ‘Saintly’!
Check out the video of Fr. Mike Schmitz speaking about the parallels between his experience of completing a triathlon and the believer’s experience of journeying to heaven.