All Saints, All Souls and Halloween
Tomorrow, Monday 31st October, the world will celebrate Halloween, which is an abbreviation of All Hallows Eve. This is because it is the vigil or the eve of All Saints Day which we celebrate on 1st November. The saints are the hallowed or holy ones and so Monday will be the eve of this Feast. The Feast of All Saints was introduced by Pope Boniface IV in 609. The purpose was to commemorate the saints both known and unknown. In the early Church there were many martyrs, some of whom we know about and others whom we don’t. So this feast was instituted to honour them all. Originally it was celebrated on 13th May, but then in the 8th century, Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel at the Vatican to honour all the saints on 1st November, and so the Feast was moved to this date.
Then in the 10th century, St Odilo, the Abbott of Cluny, instituted a feast in honour of All Souls which we celebrate on 2nd November. He recognised that not everyone who dies having led a good life is a saint immediately, and so All Souls day is when we pray for those not yet in Heaven and who are being purified in Purgatory. Purgatory does exist and we can help the souls there get to Heaven by praying for them and having Masses offered for them. November is the month dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory during which we pray in earnest for their release.
So we can see from the above that contrary to popular belief, Halloween is not of pagan origin. It is totally Christian and a very ancient feast of the Catholic Church, but like so many feasts, it has been hijacked by the secular culture. The powers of darkness have tried to claim Halloween as their own, and it’s well known that the night between 31st October and 1st November is a time all over the world when the greatest number of Satanic and occult rituals are performed, and even ordinary people like to dress up as ghosts, devils, witches and vampires, and Ouija boards and tarot cards come out. Ouija boards and tarot cards are always very dangerous, and no Catholic should ever have anything to do with them as they are an open invitation to the demonic.
It’s good and can be great fun to celebrate Halloween, but it ought to be done in a Christian way. Even ‘trick or treat’ has a Catholic origin. It was originally called ‘souling’ where people would go from door to door offering to pray for the dead in return for goodies. There’s nothing wrong with dressing up, but why not dress up as saints or angels instead? And parents, take time to tell your children stories from the lives of the saints. If you don’t know them, there are plenty of good books out there to help. Children love these stories and it can be a wonderful family event at which you can tell them what Halloween is really about. Don’t miss the opportunity! We shouldn’t be dressing up as ghosts, devils and witches, and neither should we decorate our houses with themes of death, blood and destruction, because that’s not from God – it’s from Satanism. On the contrary, we are celebrating the resurrection and the victory of JESUS Christ in His saints. This is the real meaning of Halloween.
So these days are a reminder of our own call to holiness and of how we must follow God by following in the footsteps of the saints. Let us celebrate these holy days in a truly Catholic way and use it as an opportunity to educate our children in the Faith!
Fr Paul Gillham, IC