Days of Death

jackolanternWe have three holidays to deal with, October 31-November 2. Halloween. All Saints. The Day of the Dead. All these days have to do with… Death. And with our relationship with people who have died. [Spanish]

Celebrating Halloween as a pagan involves dark and evil things. But celebrating Halloween as a Christian means costumes, candy, and fun. Because we Christians do not fear death. Our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered the darkness of winter. He has conquered the darkness of night. He has conquered the darkness of the grave. The Holy Name of Jesus makes the demons tremble.

And the names of His saints make the demons tremble, too. Because the saints also have conquered death. They reign in the eternal splendor of God.

So on Halloween and on November 1: we rejoice at the altar. Because the saints conquered death by being poor in spirit, like Jesus. By being meek and merciful. Like Jesus. The saints hungered and thirsted for righteousness. They mourned the sin of the world. They endured persecution. They sought always to make peace. Like Jesus.

United with Jesus in His divine holiness, the saints share in Jesus’ conquest of human death. And we ourselves have an intimate relationship with these heroes who have gone before us. We know that they can help us. Like good friends with supernatural resources.

Among all the dead people, many are saints. We know for a fact that some of them are: namely, the canonized ones. Like the holy Apostles, St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese. That said, most of the dead people aren’t saints yet, because… They’re in purgatory. God is purifying them of their sins.

That’s the difference between All Saints Day and All Souls Day. On All Saints Day, we rejoice with delight over the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters in faith have made it to heaven. We do not pray for the saints; we pray to them. They don’t need our prayers. We need theirs.

On All Souls Day, on the other hand, we celebrate an extra, annual funeral for all our beloved dead. We take an extra chance to pray for them and commend them to God. Our relatives and friends who have died; our ancestors. And we pray out of the kindness of our hearts for all the souls in purgatory who don’t have any living relatives left to pray for them.

The nights get longer, and that makes us remember that this pilgrim life will end. But we have nothing to fear. Rather, we keep these holy days, staying close to Jesus at the altar.

All Saints’ Trick or Treat

Let’s see who knows their patron saints. Who is the patron saint of…

All of the Americas? Our Lady! Of Guadalupe.

How about the patron of shepherds? St. Bernadette. Engineers? St. Patrick. Florists, aviators, and missionaries? St. Therese. Funeral directors? St. Joseph of Arimathea. Accountants, bankers, customs agents, and security guards? St. Matthew. Bricklayers, cabinetmakers, deacons, and altar servers? St. Stephen. What about the patron saint of grooms? St. Nicholas. And, guess what? he’s also the patron saint of brewers and lawyers in Paris, not to mention pawnbrokers.

How about the patron saint of environmentalists? St. Kateri Tekawitha. Surgeons and barbers? St. Cosmas. How about dentists? St. Apollonia. Doctors, artists, and notaries? St. Luke. And lawyers everywhere except Paris? St. Thomas More. What if you have an earache? Pray to St. Polycarp. Or if you can’t see? St. Lucy. Stomach problems? St. Timothy.

Who’s the patron saint of all Catholic schools? St. Thomas Aquinas. And the patron saint of teachers? St. Gregory the Great. Teenagers? St. Maria Goretti. (And she’s also the patron saint of grandparents.)

St. Vitus
St. Vitus
Who’s the patron saint of priests? St. John Vianney. How about soldiers, paramedics, and paratroopers? St. Michael the Archangel. How about of popes, bakers, butchers, blacksmiths, and cloth makers? St. Peter. And his brother–the patron of fisherman, fish markets, and one of our beloved Roanoke parishes? St. Andrew.

How about the patron saints of babies? The Holy Innocents. And the patron saint of your savings account? St. Anthony Claret. Waiters and waitresses? St. Martha!

Ok. How about the patroness of immigrants and hospital administrators? St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. What about immigrants from Mexico? San Toribio! Lighthouse keepers? St. Dunstan. Athletes? St. Sebastian. Pyrotechnicians, chimney sweeps, and women in labor? St. Elmo. Diplomats, mailmen, 9-1-1 call centers, and radio and tv personalities? St. Gabriel the Archangel. Architects? St. Thomas the Apostle. Beekeepers? St. Ambrose. Difficult marriages? St. Rita of Cascia.

How about the patron saint of dancers and comedians? St. Vitus. Police officers and impossible causes? St. Jude. Anesthesiologists? St. Rene Goupil. The patron saint of bad students? St. Joseph of Cupertino. Equestrians, homemakers, and sailors? St. Ann. Domestic animals and grave-digging? St. Anthony. Fire prevention? St. Catharine of Siena. Hairdressers? St. Martin de Porres. What if you’re going on retreat? St. Ignatius Loyola.

How about poets? King David. Skiers? St. Bernard. Throats? St. Blase. Journalists and writers? St. Francis de Sales. Boy Scouts? St. George. Carpenters? St. Joseph, of course! How about the patron saint of computers? St. Isidore of Seville.

Last for now, but not least, another patron of a beloved Roanoke parish, the patron saint of good confessions, of all people falsely accused of anything, and of expectant mothers: St. Gerard.

St Luke
St Luke
I think we see why we need to keep a Solemnity of “All Saints.”

By the time we reached the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, during the fourth century AD, we already had many more holy martyrs to commemorate than there are days in a year. One November First, the pope dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s basilica in honor of a large number of saints and martyrs. That’s how November 1st became All Saints Day.

Which means that’s how Halloween began, too. Since “Halloween” means, of course, the ‘e’en’ before the day hallowed by all the saints.

Do we think they have candy in heaven? Or some pretty good costumes, like Darth Vader? I guess Darth Vader couldn’t be in heaven, since he’s a bad guy. Except, wait a minute—didn’t he repent, in the end?

The Four Last Things. 1. Death. 2. Heaven. 3. The other place that starts with an h. What about #4? Does everyone go straight either to heaven or to hell, when they die?

Purgatory! Purification, where we make up for all our sins during our lives on earth.

We begin the month of November with a solemnity on All Saints’ Day; we eat candy; we get an extra hour’s sleep!

Then we spend the rest of November praying for all the souls in…. purgatory. Because we can help them. We can pray. We can have Masses said for them. We can make sacrifices, and ask the Lord to count our sacrifices for them—so they can get to heaven sooner.

We Catholic Christians can have a good time on Halloween and on All Saints Day. We can have a good time even when the days get short and cold. Why? Because we need not fear death.

Christ our Lord has conquered death. He has conquered all the demons and ghouls and evil spirits. He has gone down among the skeletons, and He has touched their dry bones with His life.

Christ has unlocked the door to heaven. We can knock on that door, and say “Trick or treat!” And He will answer, “Give Me a good pilgrim life on earth, dear child. Then you will receive a treat more wonderful than you could ever imagine. A million Snickers bars would not hold a candle to the treat you will get. Give Me a good pilgrim life, and you can look forward to joining all the saints forever.”

Godly Bravado

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

I think we hear this kind of calm bravado in the words of Christ, when He responded to the threat of Herod’s plan to kill Him.

jackolanternChrist did not fear. He declared His divine mission. He had come to Jerusalem in the name of the Lord.

He said that His mission would occupy today and tomorrow, and on the following day, it would be complete.

Today: trick or treating–with zombies and monster that we do not fear. The ancient pagans of the northern latitudes went so far as to offer human sacrifices on this dark night, when the gloom of winter arrived, so deep was their fear of death. But we Christians just eat candy and laugh with the children.

Tomorrow: All Saints Day.

The following day, maybe we can rest up and get over our colds.

The day after tomorrow, actually, is way too far in the future to worry about now. We trust our Lord Jesus. The day after tomorrow lies altogether in His hands. He will make it wonderful. The day after tomorrow might as well be the eternal day of resurrection. It lies in the great unknown future.

We believe in the day when everything will be complete, the holy Third Day. We hope for it. The day of resurrection and life, of health and peace and sunshine and a springtime that never ends.

The third day. In God’s hands.

Meantime, our business lies with today. Today we march on with faith. With the bravado of faith. Goblins, ghosts, skeletons, witches, creepy night-frighting things: we fear you not! Death and hell: We mock you. Our city lies above.


P.S. Now that the baseball season has ended, we can move on to the really important business of life. Big East basketball.

Providence Georgetown BasketballI know I whined like a spoiled child when the conference re-alignments began a couple years ago. But: Providence remains in the Big East. In more ways than one. In truth, I believe that the Lord has arranged for the best Big East ever. (Teams named for colors or for wolf-like dogs never added much anyway.)

Creighton may not be in the East. But they have a fun team. And what could be more exciting than having Butler in our conference? (Even if they don’t really have a good team this year.)

You know what I think the big story of Big East 2013-14 will be? St. John’s. The St. John glory days are coming back. And if someone other than the Hoyas have to win in Madison Square Garden, if it’s the Red Storm, I will not complain. I promise.

The one question I have is: Why do the Hoyas have to go back to Asia for another basketball game? Don’t they remember what happened the last time?

Everybody’s Holy Day

People say that Catholics have a hard time observing holy days in our thoroughly secularized culture.

But that is not exactly the case when it comes to keeping All Saints’ Day. Just about the entire American population observes this holy day—by doing something unusual the night before, be it dressing up, or giving out candy, or watching horror movies.

Continue reading “Everybody’s Holy Day”

Discussion Q’s for the Weekend


Next Attorney General of Virginia?
The next Virginia Attorney General?

(Click through to the links if you need more information.)

1. Is Shaq actually a LIABILITY for the Cavaliers?

2. Is it okay for a Christian to go trick-or-treating on Halloween?

3. Is Ken Cuccinelli a bigot because he said that homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong? Or do good people oppose same-sex marriage?

4. Is this, or is this not, the best motto a person could have:

I life would wish, and that I might
Waste it for you, like taper-light.

(from the Prologue of “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” by Wm. Shakespeare)

5. Is Kelly Clarkson just about the most awesome pop singer out there?

kelly clarkson concert

Laughing our Way into the Month of Death

November is the month of death. There is no getting around it. The leaves wither and fall. The song birds fly away. The night grows longer and longer.

The Church knows that November is the month of death. We begin the month by praying to all the dead people in heaven. The next day we start praying for all the dead people in purgatory. We spend the whole month praying for the dead people in purgatory.

So November is the month of death. The month of death begins on All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, the night before All Saints Day. Is Halloween a Christian holiday? Yes, it most certainly is.

What happens on Halloween? We confront ourselves with the darkest and most mysterious things: Death. Evil spirits. Putting on a costume poses the most murky question of all: Who am I really?

Then what happens? Laughter and merriment. On Halloween, little children dress up as skeletons, witches, ghosts, goblins—evil, dark things. Then they proceed to run around and giggle.

How is this possible? How is it that on Halloween night, the night when the month of death arrives, the night when darkness appears to conquer the sunlight—how is it that we make merry?

There is one reason. The one reason why we need not fear everything that is evil and dark. Only a Christian people could laugh during the dark night and have fun dressing up like demons. We are not afraid of these things.

Why? Because of Christ. The Light has come to the world, and the darkness has not overcome it. We Christians laugh at all the things before which pagans cower.