The Christian Roots of Halloween

10-28-2018From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John J. Barbella

I read a few years ago that – much to my surprise – Halloween has become the second largest commercial holiday in our society. In other words, people spend more on Halloween than they do on any day other than Christmas! Driving around town and seeing all the ghosts and other decorations, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Halloween today is a far cry from the days when kids of my generation dressed up like baseball players and clowns!

What many people do not know is that Halloween has its roots in our Christian history. As you know, All Saints Day is November 1. At certain times in history, it was customary for Christians to "dress up" as their patron or favorite saints on the eve of All Saints Day – called All Hallows (saints) Eve. From this came the custom of dressing up for Halloween.

This Thursday is All Saints Day, a day on which Catholics around the world honor all the saints in Heaven. On that day we remember not only the famous saints who have their own special feast days, but especially the "unknown" saints – the faithful husbands and wives, the zealous parish priests, and all the women and men who did their best to love God and neighbor in obscurity over the years.

All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning that Catholics have a serious obligation to worship God at Mass that day. For this reason, Holy Mass will be celebrated in our Church on Wednesday, October 31 at 7 PM and on Thursday, November 1 at 6:45 and 8 AM and 12:10 and 5:30 PM. I hope to see many of you there. Among other things, coming to Mass on All Saints Day reminds us that our final goal as Christians is to join the saints in Heaven. Please also remember that Friday, November 2, is All Souls Day. This is the day on which we are united with Catholics around the world in remembering and praying for those who have died. Our faith teaches us that our prayers help our loved ones on their way to Heaven. For this reason, our prayers are a great gift to those who have gone before us in faith.

In my own experience, praying for the dead is a great source of comfort. As I pray for my own deceased loved ones, I become very aware of the connection that exists between us, and of the great gift they were to me in life. It also stirs my hope to see and enjoy eternity with them in God's presence. On All Souls Day, Masses will be celebrated in our Church at the following times: 6:45 and 8 AM and 12:10 and 7 PM. The 7 PM Mass will include a special remembrance of all those buried from our church in the past year, and be followed by fellowship and light refreshments in Mercy Hall. While not a Holy Day of Obligation, many Catholics attend Holy Mass on All Souls Day. I hope you will be one of them!

We will have a Parish Pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. John Neumann on Saturday, November 10. As many of you know, a pilgrimage is a holy trip. Ours will be a holy day trip on which we will visit the Church in which St. John Neumann, who was once bishop of our part of New Jersey, is buried. It will be a good time – and a good time to pray and learn about our Catholic heritage. More information can be found elsewhere in this bulletin or on the Parish Website. I hope many of you will join me on the pilgrimage that day.

I hope you will also pray a Hail Mary for me today – and every day. Know that I always pray for you.

Have a great week!
Fr. John