Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's "All Hallows", Not "Scared Senseless"

The Solemnity of All Saints, November 1
(The Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time)
The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls), November 2
(Los Días de los Muertos)

The Word:
Revelation 7:2-14 (The survivors of ‘great distress’ are clad in white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb)
Psalm 24:1-6 (Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face)
1 John 3:1-3 (When all is revealed we shall be like God, for we shall see him as he is)
Matthew 5:1-12 (The Beatitudes)

Wisdom 3:1-9 (The souls of the just are in the hand of God, no torment can touch them)
Psalm 23 (Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil)
Romans 5:5-11 (Hope does not disappoint)
Or Romans 6:3-9 (Our Christian baptism is baptism into Jesus’ death, that we will be united with him in the resurrection)

(To view and read the citation from the book of Wisdom, click on this link: www.usccb.org/nab/110109.shtml)

Despite what you may have heard, among the things that are celebrated as October turns to November and Autumn's colorful gown is shed as Winter's dormancy begins to settle in, is the remembrance of our ancestral roots.

The Fourth Commandment (of those famous ten that Ted Turner once referred to as "suggestions") speaks of honoring one's father and mother (see Leviticus 19:3 and Deuteronomy 5:16.) In all seriousness, this extends not only to your immediate parents, but to the ancestors on the family tree. In Catholic tradition, this sense of family extends in two ways - to honor the great men and women who achieved canonized sainthood, and to remember all the good and faithful people who died in the hope and promise of salvation in Jesus Christ.

That's what we should celebrate. That, and the success of the harvest winding down are truly big things. But for some bizarre sets of reason left through the passing of time, we have this strange attraction to the grotesque. The late pope John Paul II spoke and wrote about a pervasive "culture of death" prevalent in modern society, and one place where it would seem readily apparent is in how All Hallows' Eve (aka Halloween) is celebrated.

Without getting deep in theological debate, there's a lot of fingerpointing over who's to blame. The ancient Celts supposedly donned costumes to protect their identity from spirits wanting to steal souls. Catholics sometimes point fingers at Protestant Christians because Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the cathedral at Wittenburg on October 31, 1517. Protestants retort that Catholics worshiped false gods (in the personages of Mary and the aforementioned holy men and women proclaimed as saints). All this would seem to prove nothing but that all of us have had a hand in turning what should be a recalling of God's glory and grace into anything but that.

I don't buy into this whole commercialized let's see how far we can go to scare the wits out of somebody genre. I can't. There's plenty of real-life things out there that scare me enough. Most of it is brought to me in full color on my television and computer screens. And to get paid to frighten people? Is something good supposed to come out of that? Sorry, I just don't get it.

There's a very beautiful thing about this time of year. Nature reminds us that time ultimately grows short. It's a good time to remember where we are - and the people who helped us get there. It is yet another opportunity to understand that what lies beyond this life is not something we should fear. It is not unknown; but in order to reach that place, we must cross the bridge of death, a bridge given to us by the grace of God.

These are days of remembrance and of hope. Not only for those who have passed, but for all of us still living here. Let us recall with love and affection what all our passed loved ones and friends gave us. It is this giving that is what these days are truly about. Not taking, but giving. Not grotesque, but forever beautiful and forever living. Let us not be afraid. Let us not grovel in gruesome fear. Let us dance gracefully with the dead, for in this dance we come to better know the hope to which we are called and aspire.

Recall with me a few of the more prominent names of people who have died in the last twelve months:

2008:
November 4 – Michael Crichton, American author and producer (born 1942)

December 12 – Van Johnson, American actor (born 1916)
December 18 – W. Mark Felt, American FBI agent, "Deep Throat" from the Watergate scandal (born 1913)
December 25 – Eartha Kitt, American singer and actress (born 1927)

2009:
January 13 – Patrick McGoohan, Irish-born American actor (born 1928)
January 14 – Ricardo Montalbán, Mexican-born American actor (born 1920)
January 16 – Andrew Wyeth, American painter (born 1917)
January 27 – John Updike, American writer (born 1932)

February 6 – James Whitmore, American actor (born 1921)
February 25 – Philip José Farmer, American writer (born 1918)

March 29 – Maurice Jarre, French composer and conductor (born 1924)

April 25 – Beatrice Arthur, American actress (born 1922)

May 2 – Jack Kemp, American politician and football player (born 1935)
May 4 – Dom DeLuise, American actor and comedian (born 1933)

June 3 – David Carradine, American actor (born 1936)
June 3 – Koko Taylor, American musician (born 1928)
June 25 – Farrah Fawcett, American actress (born 1947)
June 25 – Michael Jackson, American performer and recording artist (born 1958)

July 1 – Karl Malden, American actor (born 1912)
July 6 – Robert McNamara, 8th United States Secretary of Defense (born 1916)
July 17 – Walter Cronkite, American newscaster (born 1916)
July 28 - Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, televangelist, better known as "Reverend Ike" (born 1935)
July 30 - Earl G. Lowrey, lay leader of Cornerstone Church (born 1951)

August 1 – Corazon Aquino, 11th President of the Philippines (born 1933)
August 6 – John Hughes, American film director and writer (born 1950)
August 11 – Eunice Kennedy Shriver, American founder of the Special Olympics (born 1921)
August 13 – Les Paul, American musician and inventor (born 1915)
August 25 – Ted Kennedy, American politician (born 1932)

September 14 – Patrick Swayze, American actor and dancer (born 1952)
September 16 – Mary Travers, American singer-songwriter (born 1936)

October 13 – Al Martino, American singer and actor (born 1927)
October 22 - Soupy Sales, American entertainer (born 1926)

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