See also past Guest columns.

Halloween III: Jesus crushes the devil Print E-mail
Guest column
Fr. Steve Grunow

In the spirit of the upcoming All Hallows Eve, a.k.a. Halloween, Word of Fire staffers fired some questions at the walking encyclopedia that is Fr. Steve Grunow. He responded with everything you ever wanted to know about Halloween and its deeply Catholic roots.

This article is the third in a three-part series.

Question: What does the Catechism have to say about Halloween?

Father Steve: The Catechism has a lot to say about the characteristics of heroic virtue and holiness of life that create the Church's saints.

It also has a lot to say about Christ's victory over sin, death, and the devil. These are the kinds of things that the festivities of Catholic Halloween should be celebrating with great gusto and panache.

Question: One of the appealing elements of celebrating Halloween as a child, aside from the candy and costume stuff, is the spookiness factor -- the thrill of being scared without any real risk.

From a Catholic perspective, is that important? Is the experience of being fearful or having an awareness of evil an essential element for a Catholic kid to learn?

Father Steve: I think that all cultures employ cautionary tales which are replete with supernatural imagery and use this imagery as a means of teaching boundaries and inculcating a sense that there are dangerous people and situations that they could encounter and should be approach with care.

Further, I think that stories told to a group will have the ability to evoke a shared emotional experience that bonds the community together. It is not only Christian cultures that will employ a narrative, even a frightening one, to communicate their worldview and impart their values.

Darkness, the devil,  and Christ's victory

I do think that Catholics need to learn from an early age to look at the world realistically and without the blurring lenses of sentimentality. The world is fallen and finite. People will hurt one another. We are sinners.

But this darkness is illuminated by the light of God's revelation in Christ that makes the deepest truth of what it means to be human available to us in the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus.

Yes, look honestly at sin and death. Know about the lure and deceptions of fallen, spiritual powers. Realize that greater than all the fallen powers of heaven and earth is the power of God in Christ, which is a love that is stronger than sin, death, and the devil.

It is this divine power that is given to the believer in a personal way through Jesus Christ. He is victorious over everything that we fear. His love is stronger than death. The power of his divine life dispels evil. Even as we gaze into the shadows, we see his light.

 

Question:I read somewhere that Halloween is seen as the day when the veil between heaven and earth and purgatory is thinnest; hence, the presence of souls. That seems like some seriously "new agey" stuff.

Is this a Catholic thing, or is that where Wiccans and imaginative Hollywood types step in?

Father Steve: I don't know precisely the metaphysical precedents that one would use to justify the belief that there are on specific days thicker and thinner veils between the natural and supernatural realms. It seems esoteric and speculative.

I do think that the reality that such a perspective represents has great power as a narrative that explains for some folks how they think that the natural and the supernatural interact with one another.

Is it true? I don't know how one would adjudicate such a claim definitively. As such, it remains a supposition or a possibility.

Natural and supernatural  are woven together

The Catholic faith describes natural and supernatural realities existing in a relationship of communion or co-herence that is called sacramental. This means that because of the Incarnation of God in Christ, natural realities can express supernatural realities. Physical realities can truly be bearers of divine grace.

The divine grace that is revealed in the Church's commemoration of Halloween should be our participation in what is called the Communion of Saints.

This Communion of Saints means that this world is not all that there is and that those who have passed through the experience of death continue to love us, care for us, and even through God's permissive will, can interact with us.

It also means that the Christian can hope that God's power in Christ to save and redeem extends beyond this world to the next, and as such, we can hope that few of us will be lost causes.

The festivities of Halloween should affirm that these beliefs about the Communion of Saints are real and are also the deepest reality of what this world has become because of the revelation of God in Christ.


Fr. Steve Grunow is the CEO of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Learn more at www.WordOnFire.org