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(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

For most of its history, no one in the United States connected Halloween to “paganism” or “wicca.” Only within the past few decades has it gone from a harmless “kid’s holiday” to an urban legend taking root among both New Agers and fundamentalist Christians about Halloween’s supposed “pagan” past.  Thanks to continued repetition of this urban legend by venues such as the History Channel and various New Age and “paranormal” publications, as well as fundamentalist Christian anti-Halloween “crusades,” most people today accept it as fact, never bothering to investigate it further.  Today’s urban legend claims Halloween directly dates back to a pre-Christian Celtic Druid festival which the (evil) Catholic Church co-opted in order to “suppress” pagans.  As with most urban legends, this one contains a dash of truth in order to hold together a bunch of complete nonsense.

The customs we now accept as associated with Halloween are actually of much more recent origin than New Age urban legend suggests and are a mix of traditions and practices from throughout Europe, Britain, and Ireland.  As with most things which began across the Atlantic and reached American shores, these various customs and traditions were blended, “Americanized” and repackaged into what we now call Halloween.  What we do know for certain is that the modern Halloween celebration has no direct religious connection with the ancient Druids of Celtic Britain and Ireland.

It’s true the Druids celebrated a minor festival at the end of October, as they did at the end of every month, but they had long since ceased to exist as an organized people when Halloween developed.  At the beginning of what eventually became the New Age movement, Druidism saw a “revival” in the 1700s and 1800s, but just like the current New Age movement, this involved people with no real connection to ancient Druids – except in their minds – and no real connection to actual ancient Druid practices.  Just like today’s New Age “pagans” and “wiccans,” a bunch of people pretended to be “Druids” with little actual historical knowledge (other than what they invented for themselves) of actual ancient pagan groups and practices.

Let’s examine the ancient Druids a bit closer.  First, unlike the image today’s self-styled “pagans” like to project, the Druids were not peace-loving “greenies” who liked to get naked and commune with nature.  Instead, they were a rather violent and blood thirsty Celtic people who inhabited pre-Roman Britain and Ireland.  The ancient Druids had much more in common with brutal peoples like the Aztecs than Kumbaya-singing hippies.  Our earliest records of the Druids come from the Romans.  It’s significant to note that even the Romans found these people excessively brutal.  We also find that it was the Romans who suppressed Druidism.  Tiberius (Roman emperor from AD 14 to 37) first outlawed the practice of Druidism.  Under Claudius (emperor from AD 41 to 54), the Druids were completely wiped out in Roman Britain.

The Roman record brings out two extremely important points regarding Druidism.  First, very clearly, the suppression of the Druids had nothing to do with the Catholic Church, which had not spread much outside Judea at this point in history.  So claims that the Church co-opted a Druid festival to create Halloween and force the conversion of Druids are flat-out false.  Second, a hallmark of the Roman Empire was allowing conquered territories a large amount of relative autonomy as long as they continued to acknowledge Rome and pay tribute – this included allowing people to maintain local religious customs (we see this very clearly in Judea).  The fact the Romans felt compelled to stamp out Druidism shows the Druids were anything but peace-loving nature freaks.

So how does the Catholic Church get drawn into all this?  In the fourth century, the Church instituted a feast day to honor all Christian martyrs of the faith.  This feast day was originally celebrated on May 13.  In 615, Pope Boniface IV established it as the “Feast of All Martyrs” and commemorated it with the dedication of a basilica in Rome to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all martyrs.  By 741, the feast had grown to include remembering not only all martyrs, but all the saints in heaven as well.  As a result, the name was changed to the “Feast of All Saints” in 840.  In 844, long after the passing of the Druids and long after Christianity had become the predominate western religion, Pope Gregory IV transferred the feast to November 1st.

October 31st itself held no special significance in the Church calendar until 1484 (again, long, long past the time of the Druids) when Pope Sixtus IV declared the “Feast of All Saints” a holy day of obligation (days on which Catholics are obligated to attend Mass – in addition to Sundays) and gave it a vigil and an eight-day period or octave to celebrate the feast (the octave of All Saints was removed from the Church calendar in 1955).  For Catholics, the vigil is celebrated on the evening before the feast – hence Christmas Eve.  Saints were known as “hallowed” in old English.  Therefore, the vigil for the Feast of All Saints, or “All Hallows,” became known as “All Hallows’ Eve” – Halloween.  The fact that “Halloween” is derived from old English and the Druids happened to inhabit ancient Britain is as close as we come to a direct connection between the Catholic Church, Druids and today’s Halloween.

Even though it’s true that traditions such as dressing in costumes, Trick-or-Treating, and Jack-o-lanterns were originally inspired by ancient religious practices to ward off evil spirits, by the time these practices made their way to America, they had long since lost their religious meaning. Instead, they’d become much more along the lines of cultural traditions. Most telling is the fact that there is no mention of Halloween being a “pagan,” “wiccan,” or “evil” celebration in the past historical record. Only in recent decades has this notion taken hold. Once we consider the true facts, it leads me to ask just who exactly is it that has actually co-opted Halloween for their own purposes?

While an argument can be made regarding Halloween’s gross over-commercialization, an argument that can now be made about several holidays, this fact is a reflection of our out-of-control consumer society and not a reflection on the traditional observance of Halloween itself. Similarly, the fact that Halloween observances have taken on increasingly gory and over-sexed aspects are because we as a society have allowed it. In a secular relativistic society which teaches that every opinion (as long as it has nothing to do with traditional family values) is of equal merit, should we really be surprised at this? However, this should not prevent us from reclaiming the largely innocent and clean fun aspects of the traditional American customs associated with Halloween.

So, for good Catholics, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying All Hallow’s Eve. You don’t need to limit yourself to “Fall Celebrations” (which are actually much more pagan in nature than the traditional American observance of Halloween) or “All Saints Parties.” It’s okay for you to recapture the traditional American observance of Halloween. You can carve your Jack-o-lantern, throw on your costume, and go Trick-or-Treating all without fear that you’re participating in an “evil,” “pagan,” or “wiccan” celebration. Happy Halloween!

For more information, here is an article from Fr. Robert Barron’s The Word on Fire Blog answering many questions about Halloween and Catholicism: http://www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/October-2012/Culture–Time-for-Catholics-to-Embrace-Halloween.aspx. For even more information on the real history of Halloween, you may read this article by Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P.: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Catholic/2000/10/Surprise-Halloweens-Not-A-Pagan-Festivalafter-All.aspx?p=1. As a further update, here’s a recent article from Catholic Answers with the same information as found in this article: http://www.catholic.com/blog/jon-sorensen/halloween-or-samhain. Here’s an article in which Dr. Taylor Marshall shares his “Top 10 Christian Halloween Ideas:” http://taylormarshall.com/2013/10/top-10-christian-halloween-ideas.html.

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Christ the King (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

From the Roman Catholic Daily Missal 1962:

The royalty of Christ rests upon a twofold basis. He is our King by right of birth and by right of conquest. The first refers us to the personality of the Son of God, whereby, in His divine nature as God and by virtue of the hypostatic union, He is the sovereign Lord and Master. The second places before us the God-Man coming down on earth to rescue fallen man from the slavery of Satan, and by the labors and sufferings of His life, and passion, and death, to win a glorious victory for us over sin and hell.

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, Who in Thy beloved Son, the King of the whole world, hast willed to restore all things, mercifully grant that all the families of nations now kept apart by the wound of sin, may be brought under the sweet yoke of His rule: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth.

Epistle (Col. 1:12-20)

Christ is the King of the Church, and the Peacemaker through His Blood.

Brethren: Giving thanks to God the Father, Who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His Blood, the remission of sins; Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and in Him. And He is before all, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the Church, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He may hold the primacy: Because in Him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell; And through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel (Jn. 18:33-37)

Christ proclaims His kingly dignity and power.

At that time: Pilate said to Jesus: “Art thou the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered: “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of Me?” Pilate answered: “Am I a Jew? Thy own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered Thee up to me: what hast Thou done?” Jesus answered: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence.” Pilate therefore said to Him: “Art thou a king then?” Jesus answered: “Thou sayest that I am a King. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth My voice.”

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All Saints by Fra Angelico (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

October: Month of the Most Holy Rosary

November: Month of the Holy Souls

Sunday, October 30 – Feast of Christ the King (Traditional) / 31th Sunday in Ordinary Time (New)

St. Marcellus the Centurion (309), Martyr (Historical)

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (1617), Widower, Lay Brother (Historical)

Monday, October 31 – All Hallows’ Eve

St. Wolfgag (994), Bishop of Ratisbon (Historical)

St. Quentin (287), Martyr (Historical)

Tuesday, November 1 – All Saints Day (Holy Day of Obligation)

Wednesday, November 2 – All Souls Day

Thursday, November 3

St. Martin de Porres (1639), Religious, Priest in South America (Traditional – some places, New)

St. Malachy O’More (1148), Primate of Armagh, Ireland (Historical)

Blessed Ida of Toggenburh (1226), Matron, Hermitess (Historical)

Friday, November 4 – First Friday, Obligatory Day of Abstinence (or Other Suitable Sacrifice)

St. Charles Borromeo (1584), Bishop, Cardinal, Patron of Seminarians (Traditional, New)

Sts. Vitalis and Agricola (3rd Century), Martyrs (Tradiational)

Saturday, November 5 – First Saturday

Feats of the Holy Relics Preserved in the Churches of the Diocese (Traditional – some places)

Sts. Zachary and Elizabeth (1st Century), Parents of St. John the Baptist (Historical)

St. Bertilla (692), Virgin, Religious, Abbes (Historical)

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Jesus and Pharisees (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

17th Sunday after Pentecost

From the Roman Catholic Daily Missal 1962:

The Liturgy reminds us today of the great commandment of charity towards God and our neighbor: “The precept is twofold,” declares St. Augustine, “but charity is one.” We love God above all and our neighbor for His sake.

Collect

Da, quaésumus, Dómine, pópulo two diabólica vitáre contágia: et te solum Deum pura mente sctári. Per Dóminum.

Grant, O Lord, unto Thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil, and with pure minds to follow Thee, the only God. Through our Lord.

Epistle (Eph 4:1-6)

The unity of our faith, like the unity of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, imposes on us the duty of being united in the bonds of charity.

Brethren: I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called. With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all; Who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

Gospel (Mt. 22:34-46)

Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew:

At that time the Pharisees came to Jesus, and one of them, a doctor of the law, asked Him, tempting Him: “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the law?” Jesus said to him: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.” And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: “What think you of Christ? whose son is he?” They say to him: “David’s.” He saith to them: “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” And no man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.

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St Teresa of Avila (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Month of the Most Holy Rosary

Sunday, October 9 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost (Traditional) / 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (New)

St. Denis (Dionysius), Bishop, Patron Against Demons and Headaches, and Companions (Rusticus and Elecutherius) (3rd Century), Martyrs (Traditional, New)

St. John Leonardi (1609), Priest, Founder (Traditional, New)

St. Louis Bertrand (1581), Priest, Religious (Historical)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite (1st Century), Bishop, Martyr (Historical)

Monday, October 10 – Columbus Day (Observed)

St. Francis Borgia (1572), Priest, Religious, Patron of Portugal (Traditional)

St. Ghislain (Gislenus) (680), Abbot (Historical)

Tuesday, October 11

The Divine Maternity of Our Lord (Traditional)

St. Firminus (543), Bishop (Historical)

Wednesday, October 12 – Columbus Day

St. Wilfrid (709), Bishop of York (Historical)

Our Lady of the Pillar (36) (Historical)

Thursday, October 13

St. Edward the Confessor (1066), King and Patron of England (Traditional)

St. Gerald of Aurillac (909), Patron of Bachelors and the Handicapped (Historical)

Friday, October 14 – Obligatory Day of Abstinence (or Other Suitable Sacrifice)

St. Callistus I (222), Pope, Martyr (New, Traditional)

Saturday, October 15

St. Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila) (1582), Virgin, Religious, Doctor of the Church, Reformer of Carmel, Patroness of Headache Sufferers (New, Traditional)

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St John Chrysostom (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

We cannot Serve God and Money

In today’s Gospel, our Lord tells us what we should understand as a self-evident truth: we cannot serve two masters. Specifically, He says we cannot love God while at the same time loving money. This is not to say that money or wealth is inherently evil, however when we worship it as a god, it always leads to our doom. As St. Paul warns us, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plague men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

How often do we deny money is our god, yet our actions reveal otherwise? Whenever we desire the latest fashion, the latest electronic gadget, the newest car, the fanciest house, do we not through our very actions worship money as out god? When we seek fame and fortune for its own sake, we forsake our one and true Lord and Master.

To put it plainly: when we make money our lord and master, we are in mortal danger of banishment from the service of Christ. God is infinite and perfect love, yet true love is not easy and what we are called to return to God in love is not easy. St. John Chrysostom clearly tells us this when he writes, “I now say again to you, what I am always saying: that Christ urges His hearers to obedience to His words, both by means of what is profitable to them, and by what is painful; like a good physician, pointing out the disease that comes through neglect, and the good health that will come through obedience to His directions.”[1]

What does it profit us more as we are being eaten with the cancer of sin: to believe everything is fine and we should not trouble ourselves with it or to understand we are inflicted with a painful and deadly disease? Is it not better to know of the disease, no matter how painful, so that we might recognize it and fight it? Our Lord tells us the Truth: if we pretend there is no disease, we condemn ourselves to the fires of hell – for we must never forget that it is not God who sends us to hell, but we ourselves who do so through the actions and choices of our own free will. No, God does not send us to hell, but it is He alone who reaches out His hand in friendship and love to pull us up from the abyss of our own damnation. Without Him we have only death, but with Him we have only life.

Again, it is not wealth itself which is our enemy; it is our relationship to money which can make us master over it or slave to it. St. John Chrysostom recalls to mind here the example of Job:

Job was indeed rich. But he was no slave of mammon. He possessed riches and ruled them, as a master, not a slave. He held all he had as though he were the steward of another man’s riches. And not only did he not rob others of what belonged to them, he gave what was his to those in need…And so he did not grieve when he lost them. But the rich now are not like this, but rather in a state worse than any slave, and as though paying tribute to some tyrant. For the minds of such men become a sort of stronghold, held by money; and from there each day money sends out its commands, commands that are fulfilled by the violation of justice, and decency; and there is no one who does not obey.[2]

Our Lord implores us to take heart: “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” Now, Jesus is not calling on us to be lazy and slothful, with a “the Lord will provide” attitude; instead He reminds us that God provides all that we are and all that we ever will be. We must trust in Him for our ultimate nourishment and our ultimate life comes from a life in, through, and with the Holy Trinity.

We are called to take heart and to not lose our faith amongst the anxieties of the world: “If then God takes such care of the creatures He has made for our sake, how much more will He not provide for our own needs? If He cares for the servants, how much more will He not care for the masters? … He did not say we are not to sow, but that we are not to be solicitous. Neither did He say we were not to work, but that we must never be fainthearted, now wear ourselves out with anxieties. He commanded us to eat; but not to be over-concerned about it.”[3]

Our Lord calls us, in love, to follow Him on the difficult path: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk. 9:23-25)

Yet, our Lord, in His infinite and perfect love, understands we cannot instantly become Christ-like. We approach Him as pilgrims on a journey, some faster and some slower than others, yet all on the same path. As we see this message in today’s Gospel, St. John Chrysostom writes of Christ’s lesson to us:

For you now however, it is enough to learn not to be grasping, that almsgiving is a beautiful thing, to know also that you must give to others a share of what is yours. If you do this well, Beloved, you will soon go on to higher things…Meanwhile therefore let us put away all excessive luxury, and be content with what is fitting and moderate; and let us learn to acquire by honest labour all we are to possess…

Therefore keeping before our mind those degrees of self discipline which have been set before us, let us strive to attain at least to those midway on the road, so that we may be delivered from the wrath to come and, drawing ever nearer, may come at last to the very crown of all blessings; and may it be given to each one of us to attain to this, by the grace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory and honour for ever. Amen.[4]

+JMJ


[1] M. F. Toal (ed), The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Volume 4 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 102.

[2] Ibid., 103.

[3] Ibid., 105.

[4] Ibid., 107.

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You cannot serve God and mammon.

14th Sunday After Pentecost

From the Roman Catholic Daily Missal 1962:

Christian people should attend to their temporal interests without exaggerated preoccupation, for such anxiety offends God Who is our Father in heaven. We cannot serve two masters: the flesh and the spirit, at the same time. But let us serve the spirit given to us by the Holy Ghost, Who makes us lean towards the supernatural life.

Collect

Custodi, Dómine, quaésumus, Ecclésiam tuam propitiatióne perpétua: et quia sine te lábitur humána mortálita, tuis simper auxiliis et abstrahátur a nóxiis, et ad salutária dirgátur. Per Dóminum nostrum.

Favor Thy Church unceasingly, O Lord, we beseech Thee, and keep her safe: and because apart from Thee frail man is wont to fall, may she by Thy help be every withdrawn from harm and guided in good. Through our Lord.

Epistle (Gal. 5:16-24)

Let us walk in the spirit and we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The flesh makes us commit all manner of sins.

Brethren: Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.

Gospel (Mt. 6:24-33)

Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew:

At that time Jesus said to His disciples: No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith? Be not solicitous therefore, saying, “What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?” For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.

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