Washington Co., Wi – Praised be Jesus Christ! November 1st, All Saints Day, is fast approaching, landing this year on a Tuesday. Whenever that major solemnity lands on a Tuesday through a Friday, it becomes a Holy Day of obligatory Mass attendance for All Catholics, or something like a Sunday in the middle of the regular week.
The customary Holy Day Mass schedule at both parishes will be in place this year for the feast so that all of us can make Mass that day as we are required to do.
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You’ve heard me say over the years how much I love All Saints Day, chiefly because it celebrates an astounding work on God’s part: our transformation from fallen persons to fully redeemed and glorified, heavenly persons.
None of us can possibly do something so remarkable all on our own power. All of it is made even more amazing when one understands that God does this without violating our free will. It might even be said that making us into saints is one of the greatest things God can possibly do, even more grand than the creation of the universe itself simply because the material world cannot argue with God in the way that we can.
I love the soaring mountains of the Swiss Alps, for example, and their stunning grandeur points to God without question, but they are a small achievement next to the salvation of any one of us fallen creatures. Celebrating All Saints Day is our great and essential way to proclaim God’s awesome power.
It also launches us with appropriate perspective into the month of the faithful departed. All Soul’s Day inevitably and annually follows All Saints Day, which is our essential opportunity to be refreshed of an accurate view of death from the Christian perspective.
The goal of us all needs to be heaven (with the saints), yet we should never presume that any of us will automatically end up there, hence the need to fervently pray for all who have died (all the souls) so that God’s mercy can redeem them fully (in Purgatory).
Death is to be feared, and our mortality should govern our day-to-day decisions, however for a Christian, we do face it with hope. When someone dies, we carefully and lovingly lay them to rest with the knowledge that God will come for them in the fullness of time.
The dead are not disposable compost. Their bodies are the sacred vessels of souls who, while alive in this life, entered into friendship with God who is eternal. Therefore we treat them with care.
By extension of the calendar, every year All Saints Day is preceded by its vigil, or eve on the 31st of October, this year landing on a Monday. This is of course the primary origin of the secular observance popularly called “Halloween” in our country.
Like so many of our secular cultural calendar days in America, Halloween’s trappings have now almost completely overtaken any previously dominant (and necessary) Christian meaning or perspective. In a secular culture in which public expressions and ideas of Christian teachings have largely retreated, Halloween grows into something outsized. Generally, it has now become a public spectacle of gluttony, self-indulgence, and an unholy obsession with the forces of darkness that Christ came to vanquish from our midst.
A Christian family must work hard these days to celebrate it in a way that resists all of its dangerous excess.
For this reason, the parishes are again holding a day of prayer and reparation from morning until evening on the 31.
The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for prayer at Saint Mary’s from the end of the 6:15 a.m. Mass until just before the All Saints Vigil Mass at 6:45 p.m. Please sign up to take an hour of prayer that day. Unfortunately, much that is sacrilegious, and evil is done on or around Halloween, and our prayers of reparation are a very important antidote to this poison in our culture.
I’ve always said that it would be great if Christians used the occasion of Halloween to dress up as Saints, and to go around giving out prayer cards at doors, doing good deeds, and posting Christian messages in the neighborhood. My vision for this has unfortunately not gained much traction it seems. Maybe one day it will as we keep learning more and more these days to be very intentional about our beliefs and public expressions of it. It is all part of what God uses to call us to be saints and to renew all of creation, and all of the culture, in Christ Jesus.