This year with all this looming marketing of ‘spooky season,‘ I felt stuck on this question more so than ever. How do we keep our focus on the mystery of faith this All Souls Day? The Lord provided me with an unlikely history lesson to help me untangle my spiritual dilemma that took me back to the time of Cromwell in England.
Did you know that Christian celebrations like Christmas and All Souls Day had been outlawed in England?
I recently found this out while rehearsing for our parish Christmas play. My role was to be a person praying in the pew on Christmas Day. Because I was naughty and didn’t read the script ahead of time, I was surprised to learn my character was about to be imprisoned.
As I learned, in the British commonwealth in the mid 1600’s, Christmas Day celebrations and others were banned by puritanical Church and state leaders of the time. These leaders included the notorious Lord Protectorate, Oliver Cromwell. (That’s a link to just-for-fun facts, and it’s so I can use the word Cromwellian in this article title.) Punitive measures were in place for those who did not obey the ordinances. So no special feasts or special Masses were allowed!
It sounds modestly familiar. Just a few short years ago, some in our own country were not allowed to gather in numbers in their own homes, and churches were closed down for Easter.
Consequently, the puritanical thoughts of that century lead to severe restrictions on the faithful. The secular society had shrugged off the true meaning of Christmas and instead used it as a time of self-satisfaction and excessive indulgences, (again sounds familiar.) As a result, the faithful of the time were choked in their ability to authentically celebrate the momentous occasion of Christmas.
Halloween or Spooky Season?
This historic revelation lead me to consider ‘SPOOKY SEASON.’ The celebration of All Souls Day Eve – aka. Halloween – is always evolving as culture never stands still, as much as we wish it might. This year the new fashion has been ushered in to adjust the function of Halloween once again. The fashion called ‘spooky season,’ now appears to be an entire season, filled with imagery that enriches our nightmares. As I learned on Netflix, it is 31 days long.
I first saw the term ‘spooky season’ when I opened up an email from the now online seller Gymboree, that adorable clothing store that shutdown a few years ago, much to my dismay. But then it kept coming at me. ‘Spooky season’ is coming from everywhere. And I, for one, am finding that rather spooky.
All this disheartening marketing of a season of ‘spook’ has really raised the blood pressure. And I have questioned whether or not I should impose a total boycott on all things Halloween. But alas, I was unexpectedly thwarted in my puritanical inclinations during play practice.
And here starts the takeaway.
As I sat in the make-believe pews of England in the year 1658, while the Church was ransacked and I was imaginarily thrown into a pretend prison, I received my answer to ‘spooky season’. . . . . Our secular society does not need us to throw our Holy Day in prison in order to straighten society up! In the midst of the oppressive sensations that threaten our sense of peace during these holy seasons, we must focus on the spiritual reality they are meant to impart.
We can rob ourselves when we lose focus on the intent of our faith traditions, and we wind up being absorbed by reacting to the cultural phenomena around us. This habit can steal our peace as Christians and hinder our ability to fully engage in our Christian traditions and celebrations, which are set up like a lamp for those in the darkness.
The Good News
Above all, in God’s greatness, He offers us the option of eternity in His presence. On All Souls day, we are called to celebrate all the holy souls that have embraced the eternal union with God. This includes the Angels, Saints and the souls in Purgatory. It includes your Grandma and your Great- Great- Great- Great-Grandfather. It includes all the armies of God’s victorious and, one day, we hope it includes us.
In the vision of darkness thickly laid before us, there we see just one little light in a jack-o-lantern. Consider these versus:
…4 In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil.
to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith in Me.’
And the conclusion
The ones we celebrate on this Holy Day deserve to be delighted in, for they have received the glory promised in our Lord’s Resurrection. Through the celebration of their victory, we take up the hope of our own salvation. Let the darkness around us only point us to the Light with greater excitement. Let us continue to crave the Light and flee the spirit of darkness for now and, of course, for eternity. If we keep our eyes steadfastly engaged in the tangible brightness of the eyes of our Savior, we may just avoid the temptation to hide inside a very Cromwellian Halloween. Happy All Souls Day everyone!
For a big serving of SWEET ideas to keep your family focused on faith this Halloween check out some fabulous CraftyCatholicMoms ideas here.
Here is an All Souls’ Day homily, cleverly set to some urban rhythm from a Parish in Brooklyn, NY, where I once taught preschoolers. This homily also talks about Bl. Carlo Acutis. Enjoy!