Bishop Gives Good Advice on Halloween

Bishop David Austin Konderla of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, issued some timely advice on the subject of Halloween and what is the proper way to celebrate the holy days that surround it.

“As the annual celebration of Halloween approaches, we are reminded of the importance of maintaining the Catholic meaning and purpose of all holy days, especially those which have been adopted and adapted by the culture around us,” Bishop Konderla writes. “Over time, popular culture has made it difficult to discern the authentic spirit of this great feast, an important time when we, God’s pilgrim church on earth, rejoice in the lives of all God’s saints whom we wish to follow into eternal life.”

He goes on to explain how Halloween finds its origins in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, but cultural customs surrounding it has caused it to drift away from the feast’s intended meaning and purpose.

The word “Halloween” comes from a combination of two words in the English language’s history, he explains, the word “hallows” meaning “holy ones” while the word “e’en” represents a shortening of the word “evening.”

Thus “Hallow-e’en” or “Hallows’ Eve” refers to “The Eve of All Saints.”

Even the custom of dressing up for Halloween is devotional in spirit. “By dressing up as the saints whom we most admire, we imagine ourselves following their example of Christian discipleship,” he writes.

Some of the more frightening aspects of the feast, such as skulls and scythes have historically recalled our mortality, reminding us to be holy because we are destined for judgment.

“Visible symbols of death thus represent a reminder of the last things—death, judgment, Heaven, and hell (CCC 1020-65). While the ‘Gothic’ aspect of Halloween reminds us of Christian teaching about the resurrection of the dead, our culture often represents this in a distorted manner, for when the dead are raised they will in truth be ‘clothed with incorruptibility’” (1 Cor 15:50-54).

This is where Halloween can separate from Catholic teaching.

“Separated from Catholic teaching, grim or ghoulish or ‘Gothic’ costumes can furthermore be mistaken as a celebration or veneration of evil or of death itself, contradicting the full and authentic meaning of Halloween,” he continues.

“We also want to intentionally avoid those things that are contrary to our Catholic faith but have become popularized through the secular adaptation of Halloween. Turning to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we want to refrain from glamorizing or celebrating anything involving superstition, witches, witchcraft, sorcery, divinations, magic, and the occult (cf. CCC 2210-2117).”

He concludes by exhorting the faithful to “be good models of Christian virtue for those we serve and make clear distinctions between that which is good and that which is evil.”

“Because praise is fitting for loyal hearts (cf. Ps 33:1), let us urge one another this Halloween to express in every detail of our observance the beauty and depth of the Feast of All Saints. Let us make this year’s celebration an act of true devotion to God, whose saints give us hope that we too may one day enter into the Kingdom prepared for God’s holy ones from the beginning of time.”

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