Like Christmas, Halloween has been corrupted by the prevailing culture, so much so that its religious roots have been all but lost. And if that were not bad enough, a good many Christians—even some Catholics—avoid the holiday because too many minds associate it with the occult, the Adversary, and pagan traditions.
That’s too bad. Halloween offers us the opportunity to celebrate that the Church encompasses all the saints, living and dead, accomplished and still “in training.”
It’s time for Catholics to take the holiday back, if in no other way than to remind us of the incredible richness of the three days from All Hallows Eve through All Souls Day. There’s no need to withdraw completely from public celebrations. This is a perfect opportunity to bring Christ into the world that needs him so much. With a few minor adjustments, you can have a truly Catholic Halloween, without losing the fun of begging for an overload of candy.
Go to Mass on Halloween. There’s no doubt that the secular celebration of Halloween is all too often a celebration of mischief, disorder, and even evil. Making the Mass a part of Halloween-- more important than Trick or Treating—is a powerful reminder of what these days are really about. While you’re there, offer up a few prayers for the lost, the abandoned, the deceived and those whose idea of celebration includes vandalism and other disturbing acts.
Invite others to join you. Even parents who are not particularly religious might welcome a way to “detoxify” the experience and would happily accept mutual support for a more wholesome Halloween. Make Halloween a family affair, with adults looking after children and children looking after each other. Inviting folks who don’t share a Christian perspective on the festivities can be an opportunity for stealth evangelization as well as fellowship.
Find a way to connect dress-up to faith. There’s no need to insist on dressing up as a saint (that can wait until November 1). Help children find a connection between their costume of choice and a hero of the faith. A little pirate might be interested to know that St. Albinus is the patron against piracy because it was his custom to ransom those held hostage by pirates. A little princess might like the story of a real-life princess, Elizabeth of Hungary, who became a saint. And your ghost? Even Jesus talked about them!
Send the kids off with a prayer and your blessing. One of the more beautiful and appropriate ones is the Breastplate of St. Patrick. After all, St. Patrick was tasked with converting a very pagan culture, not unlike our own.
Afterward, count the loot—then figure out a way to share the wealth. Donating a penny for every piece of candy contributed to the poor box goes a long way toward reinforcing the religious nature of the holiday without taking away its legitimate fun.
In the name of the God of Israel
May the Angel Michael be at my right
And the Angel Gabriel at my left
And in front of me the Angel Uriel
And behind me the Angel Raphael
And above me, the Shekinah (Divine Presence)
Be aware of those who suffer because of Halloween. Every year there are acts of vandalism. If you have the opportunity, help those affected by Halloween violence. Offer to clean up a neighbor’s yard or wash the eggs from his car. What better way to honor the saints we will celebrate the day after Halloween?
A cheerful, quiet witness on Halloween will almost certainly turn a few heads in today’s anything-goes culture. It might also turn a few hearts in the process.
This article was orginally published on Oct. 23, 2017.
Barbara Golder had a 40-year career in medicine and law, including health care ethics. She is now the award-winning author of the ‘Lady Doc’ mystery series and serves as Director of Adult Faith Formation and Evangelization at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She blogs at ladydoclawyer.com.