Thursday, October 25, 2012
This time of year, we celebrate All Saints Day, followed by All Souls Day, and then there’s Halloween thrown into the mix! How do all of these fit together?
If you look at your Church calendar, you will notice the names of saints on almost every day. The feast of All Saints was established by the Church because numerous martyrs and other saints could not be honored with individual feast days: there simply weren’t enough days in the year! So, as the prayer of the Mass states, "we venerate the merits of all the saints by this one celebration” on November 1st.
From the very beginning, the commemoration of All Saints included, in a special way, the Blessed Virgin. When Pope Boniface IV dedicated the former pagan temple of the Pantheon as a church almost 1400 years ago, he called it the church of the "Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs." Thus, All Saints Day is really a great feast day of Mary, too. It is a Holy Day of Obligation.
The commemoration of All Souls was introduced in the year 1000. All the monks of a Benedictine congregation in France began offering a Mass for the suffering souls in Purgatory every year on November 2nd. The popes in Rome extended this celebration to the whole Church, and since then, we continue to pray for the holy souls throughout the year, but also have a special day devoted to their prayerful memory.
What does this have to do with Halloween on October 31st? The word “Halloween” is short for All Hallow’s Eve, which is the eve or evening before we honor those who are “hallowed” or have been made holy - that is, the saints. You’ve heard the word before, in the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray, in reference to God, “hallowed be Thy name.” Although the name of this tradition is taken from the great Christian feast, the ways we observe Halloween, like dressing in costume and going trick-or-treating, are not connected with any Christian meaning. These practices have come down to us from the pagan practices of the ancient Celtic societies. And while there is little harm in dressing up and eating candy, in a Catholic home, participation in Halloween should not be explained as being connected to the Christian feast. We may certainly enjoy the fun and games, but we should not neglect to talk about the great feasts of All Saints and All Souls. After the Halloween frolics are over, perhaps while the Snickers and candy corn are being consumed, turn your mind to God and prepare to greet all the heroes of God during this time of remembrance and celebration.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Faith is not something one receives whole and entire, once and for all, thanks to one’s family and upbringing or ethnic heritage. As human beings we are all weak and easily misled by the world, the flesh and the devil. Just like the apostles, our constant prayer must be: “Lord, increase our faith.”
Faith is a gift from God. We have to accept it and live it, to be sure, but as Jesus said: “no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father” Pope Benedict tells us that “especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing” the Year of Faith is a “time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us.”
The gift of faith that comes from God is not just a personal attitude or frame of mind, much less just a feeling or emotion. In the words of the Holy Father: “there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent.” “[For this] reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory.”
One of the reasons that October 11, 2012, was chosen to open the Year of Faith is that it marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” a book which the pope describes as “an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council.” October 11th was also the 50th anniversary of the opening of that Council in 1962.
In the aftermath of the Council, many religious educators moved away from repetition and memorization of the doctrines of the faith. New approaches emphasized the importance of personal conversion and faith in action, especially at the service of others. These efforts were nevertheless accompanied by less and less focus on the specific content of Christian doctrine, even as society at large began to look suspiciously at authority, tradition and the very existence of absolute truths.
With time it became clear that many of those being catechized were no longer learning the content of the faith in a way that they could, or would remember.
Pope Benedict has asked that during the Year of Faith we all make a concerted effort “to rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith” (PF, 9). We are all called to take advantage of the wonderful learning opportunities our parish offers.
Monday, October 8, 2012
With the election less than a month away, many of us are already tired of the barrage of political campaign ads that seem to follow one after the other on television and the radio. Within one four-minute commercial break the other evening there were eight different political ads. Each ad featured dark images of the evil one candidate, or another, represented. Many of these ads were not endorsed by any particular candidate, but were offered by various entities on behalf of their own agenda.
Much of the same is happening in the parking lots of parishes throughout the city and the nation as different interest groups leaflet cars. The 70 million Roman Catholics in the United States represent a sizeable voting block; a block of voters that any candidate or party would like to have in their pocket. So, the leafleting continues.
Many of you call and ask the parish to put a stop to the practice. We wish we could. The parishes of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and their grounds, are private property and no outside group has permission to distribute materials. The simple fact of the matter is that many of these groups arrive in teams and within minutes have left their leaflets and have moved on to another parish.
Bearing in mind that the Church endorses no candidate or party, and that neither party represents the fullness of truth as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, we consider leafleting to be an insult to the Church and to you, our parishioners. We ask you to remember that the materials left on your cars may not represent the teachings of the Church, even if they claim to. Remember, no truth in advertising laws apply to political campaign material.
What can you do? First, do not confront anyone you may find placing material on cars. There are numerous instances where parishioners have been assaulted by those whom they have caught leafleting. Once material has been placed on a vehicle that material no longer belongs to the one who placed it. We encourage you to throw the material away, but please do not litter the parish parking lot. Finally, instead of calling the Church, contact the groups or candidates whose material you find on your vehicle and let them know that you do not appreciate their effort.
The important thing to remember is that each of us is called to form our own conscience about who we vote for. In a few weeks someone will win and someone will lose in elections all over the country, and we are called to support our elected officials whether we voted for them or not.