October 26, 2007

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Halloween is a tradition that needs refining

Shirley Vogler Meister“Here’s to Halloween, you best take care.

“Black cats and lanterns everywhere.

“Pumpkins with faces I saw made.

“That’s why I’m really not afraid.”

These simple words and their tune still pop up in my mind at this time of year.

I learned them from a Sister of Christian Charity when I was in kindergarten at St. Bernard School in St. Louis. The little ditty—and Halloween itself in former years—seem so simple and innocent now when compared to some of the ghoulish music and practices in more recent years.

Not long ago, I received an e-mail about the dangers of Halloween, not only for children, but for adults, too. The emphasis was on the rise of black magic and other frightening practices. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that some adults and children are now “talking with the dead.” I understand there is even a TV program about this.

Séances and similar practices have been around for centuries in one form or another. Some are relatively harmless, traditional children’s games, but others are serious and unsettling—and even dangerous.

By the same token, through the years I have personally sensed the presence of a dearly departed loved one now and then, especially when praying. This is no different than when I concentrate on a saint’s intercession for a particular concern or request. Such moments are comforting and peaceful although not as deeply sacred as receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

Halloween began as All-hallow-even or All Hallow’s Day, a pagan holiday turned Christian with the introduction of All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls Day on Nov. 2.

In some states, there are citywide events during Halloween season sponsored by Churches and organizations that are especially philanthropic or actively caring or protective toward children.

Fortunately, many Catholic and other Christian-based schools and Churches now promote children dressing as their favorite saints. However, most children change to more secular costume themes when going trick-or-treating. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children, through their costumes and short explanations, could introduce saints in their neighborhoods?

More than $5 billion is expected to be spent on Halloween-related items and activities in the U.S. this year. This is a mind-boggling figure that prompts me to think about how many more worthy projects could be accomplished if the money were going toward worthwhile goals.

As it is, popular culture has us stuck with a tradition that still needs refining—a tradition that has many children pretending to be adults and many adults acting like children.

Still, weather permitting, I look forward to acting like a kid again next week while sitting on my porch and greeting children and their parents as they make happy Halloween rounds.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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