In the excitement of creating elaborate Halloween displays, designing costumes, carving pumpkins, and buying enough candy to last the night, the original meaning of Halloween might be forgotten or overlooked—except at schools where children dress up as saints! Halloween is the eve before the feast of All Saints. Hallowed means holy, as in the Our Father’s “hallowed be Thy name.” Halloween = Hallowed eve. November 1 is the day we celebrate all of the saints from the oldest to the youngest, the most popular to the forgotten, the powerful to the meek and humble, those canonized centuries ago, and those canonized this month like St. Pope Paul VI and St. Oscar Romero. We Catholics regard those who have shown the way to be holy on earth as models and inspirations but also as friends. We ask them to pray for us for trivial things such as losing our key for the umpteenth time and for serious matters like conquering cancer.
Formerly children were named for the saint on whose feast they were born, unless parents objected to naming their child an outdated name like Pachomius or Cupertino. These holy people then became special patrons of the children, someone who could pull strings for them in heaven. Otherwise, parents could name their children after favorite saints. Today when children are likely to bear names such as Fallon and Dejeanna, they can choose a patron saint. I was named Kathleen, which is related to Catherine, so I had my choice of Catherine of Alexandria, Catherine Laboure, and Catherine of Siena. I chose the latter, probably because I like Louis de Wohl’s book about her, Lay Siege to Heaven.
St. Catherine is a great woman, one of the first women to be named Doctor of the Church. Refusing to be married (against her parents’ wishes) Catherine became a kind of hermit, living at home and serving her family, and also praying so intensely that she was bonded to Christ in a mystical marriage. Then when he sent her out into the world, she became spiritual “Mother” to dozens of people. Most notably, she was instrumental in seeing that the pope left Avignon and returned to Rome where he belonged.
I have the picture of St. Catherine shown here in my living room. She’s carrying the ship that stands for Christ’s Church. We show devotion to our patron saints, not only by displaying their image and celebrating their feast days, but also by asking them to pray for us. St. Catherine is a good one to pray for Pope Francis, don’t you think?
By the way, one of my newest books is about the saints. I researched their dying words and came up with the last words of 89 saints. The book has a brief bio of each saint, the dying words, and then a reflection on the words. You might buy a copy for yourself or someone to celebrate the feast of All Saints! It’s called I Am Going… and sells for $13.00. Contact me for a copy: email@example.com.
Who is your favorite saint or saints? Why? How do you honor him or her?