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History of the Church: 1517 A.D. to the Present

Theology for The Laity Series – Fall ‘94

The Real Meaning of Halloween

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Now once more, the sequence for today’s classes will first be on Church History and then on the Third Article of the Creed. And, not coincidently, our Church History will be- you’d never guess-on Halloween, which symbolizes, dramatically, symbolizes the widespread de-Catholicization of the Western World. And the second part of our classes will be on the Third Article of the Creed, which is on the Blessed Virgin Mary. And for that we’ll have an outline, a chart. Then, if there are persons here who contributed to this Handbook on the Teaching of Faith for Parents and Teachers; if there are any, then they of course deserve a complimentary copy. Otherwise, I brought about twenty copies here and they will be on sale for what they cost us to Xerox, namely, five dollars. Before Christmas we hope to have about twenty thousand printed.

As you may know last week I went to Scranton Pennsylvania after over a year’s preparation to attend the first convention in thirty years of the Eucharistic Crusade which is a division or branch of the Apostleship of Prayer and, more specifically for children to promote devotion to the Holy Eucharist, to teach the Faith, to inspire children in being apostles already from childhood, and to pray and all under the ages of the Sacred Heart. Nine nations in the world are so far doing this. And my Jesuit General told me he wants this back in the United States and gave me the orders. I’m very happy to carry them out bringing the Eucharistic Crusade back into the United States. Pray, however, we have thirty-five dioceses.

Oh, these are the copies of the Apostleship of Prayer monthly intentions for 1995. I’d rather not do this during class, but then if you take one there’d probably be enough especially for one member of a family. That’s the intention of the Holy Father and, by the way, the Pope personally and prayerfully chooses these intentions for each month of the year. And there are always two sets of intentions: the General intentions and the Mission intentions. For example, the January general intention for 1995 is: The gift of distinguishing true from false cultural values. Is that ever important! And the January missionary intention is: Catechetical reformation, or better, catechetical formation that is both missionary and ecumenical. My friends, that’s a hard, very hard combination. In other words, how to be friendly with Muslims, kind, Christian, charitable: at the same time try to convert them to Christianity. In any case, you’ve got about twenty sets here. Thanks Bill.

So I would say these are available one-hundred thirty pages, and they are deeply personal contributions on how to teach, share and develop the Faith, mainly put together by parents because we are restoring the Eucharistic Crusade in the United States and this is one step in that direction. Then to remind some of you as we come to the close of the month of October, there is still no charge for these, The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Monfort. In any case, copies are still left; and this time, no charge.

Then on my way to Chicago last Friday, my pickup at the airport gave me a copy of the present Holy Father’s latest book, Crossing The Threshold of Hope. Worth reading. I gave my first lecture on this book last Friday. The Holy Father says things that you won’t find elsewhere in print. As you may know, this book was a second thought. It was to have been a series of television broadcasts by the Holy Father in Italy, but the series did not come off. The Holy Father asked the journalist who was going to interview him on television, would he please write out the questions? The questions then became the theme of each chapter in this book. The publisher is Knoff, K N O double F, Alfred Knoff. And the price I have here is twenty dollars. On the other hand, this was a gift to me. And the party told me at least, for awhile there was a forty per cent discount. You might want to save money. Hopefully that discount is still available. It is worth reading though because, I repeat the Holy Father says things you won’t find elsewhere in print. Also explains, by the way, what so many people have criticized his - what looks like - leniency in dealing, say, with dissenters and heretics. In any case, read the book.

Then I went to the seminary, Sacred Heart Seminary, had my picture taken. Several times I just didn’t show up for the photograph. They kept after me. Finally, it became a matter of conscience. Well having both my picture taken, I thought I’d do a little apostolic work so I went to the bookstore of the seminary and found an unusual assortment of books. I bought, among others, Catholicism by my dear friend, Richard McBrien. This is an update on his former book and he says the former book sold a hundred fifty thousand copies. In any case, I got a discount thirty-five dollars; I think I paid twenty-eight for it, but I need books like this to refute what they call themselves - dissenters. But, I looked in the index to see what names were listed. And, well, I saw two entries for Hardon, John A., so I figured if I’m in the book I think I should buy a copy. In any case, he hasn’t really changed. Pray for Richard McBrien. He has done incalculable damage to the Catholic Church in the United States. As you see, this is not an ordinary announcement. I know I’m being taped.

One last item, I’m not sure how many of you people get or know about the Human Life Review? How many of you get the magazine? It costs, I’m not sure well twenty dollars a year, comes out four times a year, but it’s worth it. This issue is about 96 pages so it comes to about 400 pages for the year. It is, by all odds, the best, the most penetrating and revealing publication in any language on the pro-life movement. Anyone engaged in the pro-life movement, I would say, has a duty either to subscribe to the magazine or have access to it on a regular basis. The editor is a good friend of mine in New York. I encouraged him when he first started this and I get my own copies gratis and even sent first class. In any case, I highly recommend this publication. This is the Fall Issue. As I mentioned, our next lecture, then, will be on the Third Article of the Creed, which is on Our Lady.

Our Present Lecture Is on Halloween - Christian and Catholic Feasts Paganized

And it will be a lecture that I finished this morning, drawing on printed matter from sources that I consulted, although, in drawing on those sources I would change, remove and, of course, add as I thought it was necessary. Simply Halloween. Halloween typifies a phenomenon that had become increasingly common in the Anglo-Saxon world. It is a phenomenon of one’s Christian and even Catholic feasts and celebrations becoming paganized. The two most notorious are, of course, Christmas and Easter. Christmas trees and Santa Claus are the two popular symbols of what should be the Feast of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Easter is associated with rabbits and a new wardrobe for spring. Whereas, the Feast of Christ’s Resurrection is all but ignored outside of strictly Christian communities.

Since the beginning of television in 1941 - organized television in our country - until about 1980, so that’s about forty years, all the Easter shows were exclusively about pagan and non-christian events or symbols. Finally, through organized Christian effort and pressure boycotting these stations; finally, finally they broke down and began getting little tidbits about the meaning of Easter. Forty years of dead silence on television in Chicago about the real meaning of Easter Sunday.

Protest Against The Catholic Church

Halloween, though not commonly known to be such, is actually even more notorious. It symbolizes what has happened in once Catholic countries thanks, in large measure, to the rise of anti-Catholic Protestantism in the sixteenth century and whatever meaning you associate with Protestantism, be sure that you don’t forget that historically Protestantism - the very name is derived from protest against the Catholic Church. That’s what Protestantism means historically: It is the protest against the Catholic Church and Her Teachings.

Vigil of All Saints - Birthday of Protestantism

The birthday of Protestantism is October 31st, 1517, the Vigil of the Feast of All Saints. On that day Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses, as he called them, to the door of the castle of Wittenberg, Germany. Among these theses, Luther denied the Church’s right to give absolution from sins in the Name of Christ. Three years later Luther was condemned by Pope Leo X as a heretic: And before Luther’s death in 1546, something like one-third of Europe was lost to the Catholic Church. And it all began on Halloween, October 31st, 1517. In other words, in the mind of every Protestant having taught - as I have told so many of you - in six Protestant seminaries including the Lutheran School of Theology for seven years; And I never, for a moment, compromised on Catholicism. You’d think after three days they would throw me out bodily. Oh! I love Protestants. My widowed mother took in boarders, women boarders. And the first two boarders that stayed with us till I was, well, sixteen were two Lutheran girls. I heard about Martin Luther by the age of three. I’m sure they were the only Lutherans in the United States then, Susan and Judith, who abstained from meat on Fridays. My mother told them, “My boy’s asking embarrassing questions. Want to say here, talk to your pastor.” No meat on Fridays. Pastor said ok so…I love Protestants. But I sure know the difference - Protestantism is not Catholicism. In the history of the world, therefore, the Vigil of All Saints is the birthday of Protestantism.

Catholicize The Language

The very name Halloween, as we know, meant and should still mean, dear Lord, should still mean, as I’ve told so many audiences and especially the Missionaries of Charity no matter what country I teach them, I tell them “Sisters”, and most of them by the way when I asked them, “How many of you spoke English as your native language at home?” Almost never any one puts up her hand. So I asked, “How many of you did not speak English at home?” Everybody puts up her hand. I put up mine too. I never spoke English at home. Never! Then I tell them, Sisters - as I told Mother Theresa more than once - among your responsibilities - and English is the official language of the Missionaries of Charity - one of your responsibilities is to Catholicize the English language. They’re now in one hundred countries. Sisters from Tanzania, from Zambia, from you name it, some unpronounceable names of the places they’re from but they’ve got to learn English. If they can’t learn English they don’t have the vocation to that community. Catholicize the language. English is the most not just un-Catholic - English is the most anti-Catholic language in human history! Do you hear me? English is the most anti-Catholic language in history. English literature, libraries tens of thousands of books written by those who not only, did not share our Catholic Faith but were brought up from, most of them, in infancy in an atmosphere that was, to put it mildly, not friendly to the Catholic Church.

It Is A Protestant Heresy to Honor The Saints

The Feast of All Saints and the corresponding, and was a Vigil of All Saints, the thirty first of October before the first of November. Middle of the fifteenth century, so it’s over fifteen hundred years and this Vigil of the Solemn Feast of All Saints has now became a day of fun and prankish trickery. Oh! As we’ll explain before this lecture is over - this will not be an ordinary lecture I assure you. Not coincidentally, the followers of Martin Luther not only dropped the Feast of All Saints; they denied from the very beginning, they denied the veneration of saints and called it superstition. It is - it is Protestant heresy to honor the saints. Logically then, the Vigil of All Saints became a day of mockery, a mockery of the veneration of Saints, or invoking their intercession in Heaven with God. But there are no saints in Heaven - this is a cardinal principle of both Luther and John Calvin.

My Plan: To Trace The History of Halloween

My plan for this conference and this, by the way, is still the introduction: My plan for this conference is to cover the following areas of an immense subject. My plan is to trace the history of Halloween, before the dawn of Christianity, it’s continued practice where Christianity had not taken a firm root, and its resurgence as pagan folklore where Catholic Christianity was weakened or suppressed by political power: and something of the responsibility of Catholics in English-speaking countries to restore Halloween to its truly Christian significance. The word itself Halloween spelled, as we know, with two l’s and two e’s which is literally “all hallows even”. In other words, all hallows means, means all saints; in Old English, hallow, hallows means saint. All Hallows means all saints and een double e n is the abbreviation for even or evening or the night before. In its strictly religious aspect, this is known as the Vigil of HalloMass or All Saints day, November the first, and observed by the Roman Catholic and to remind ourselves also, thank God, by the Anglicans. We mentioned that Pope Gregory III assigned this date for celebrating the Feast when he consecrated the chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica and his successor, then, extended the Feast to the whole Church.

Students of folklore believe, that the non-Christian custom of Halloween that they precede even the origins of Christianity and more specifically they are traced to the Roman harvest festival of Pomona and druidism: Pomona, in the Roman Empire and Druidism in Germany, Scotland and Ireland before the dawn of Christianity. These influences, so scholars tell us, are inferred from the use of nuts and apples as traditional Halloween fruits and from the figures of witches, black cats and skeletons, which were associated among the pagans before Christ.

Ancient Pagan Halloween Customs Restored

Hear this, in Latin countries, the evening of October the thirty first is observed only as a religious occasion. But in Great Britain - that’s where it got started - in Great Britain and then exported to Ireland and the United States; ancient Halloween pagan customs have been restored alongside of the Christian observance. Evidence that Halloween reflects influences from the two sources we identified, namely from the goddess Pomona and from druidism is seen in the fact that as Catholicism was suppressed by Henry the Eighth and his successors and remember suppressed under persecution. What happened? Some of the hidden paganism among the people before the dawn of Christianity then rose to the surface. For example, the spirits of the departed were believed to visit their kinsman in search of warmth and good cheer as winter approached. It’s also the period for threshing and of food preparation for the winter season.

Christianized Pagan Practices

Now let me touch on just one aspect; we won’t have time to go into in detail. Over the centuries, the Church has made a consistent effort which, by the way, is brought out very clearly in this book by the Holy Father that as far as possible the Church would keep, I repeat, as far as possible the Church would keep for example even the date of certain feasts or festivals. For example, the principal festival which was dedicated to the sun-god was the name then which Christianity had adapted and in fact even adopted for the Lord’s Day, namely, Sunday. So here the Church then, we don’t want to say built on, that would be a mistake, but used the externals of certain, call them festivities, certain practices of the pagans before they were Christianized, but then slowly baptized not just the feast but the meaning behind the feast in such a way that the people would not have to simply discard the feast, as such, but the meaning of the feasts. This is crucially important. As you read the pages in the Holy Father’s book, keep that in mind.

Most Important Harvest God Wants Is Souls

In other words, under divine guidance, the Church tries rather than crush or suppress or wipe out what is good among the people to rather – once the people themselves converted – to build on what is good, it better be good, however, and give the people as in this case – notice what the Church did – surely the end of October, the beginning of November is, well, the time of the harvest which, then building on that, would keep a commemoration of thanking God for the good that He had done. And, of course what’s the most important harvest? My day is made if someone can answer this question - what’s the most important in the mind of God? The most important harvest that He wants is souls! Souls! The souls that made it and the Feast of All Saints, as the Church has been teaching over the centuries, is not just of Canonized Saints but of all those who’ve reached Heaven. And the Feast as we’ll explain I may not have all the time I’ve got more here I think than I have room for in one lecture. While then - the Poor Souls - the day after for those who are still suffering in Purgatory and that’s the highest and most sublime harvest which the Church wants all of us to commemorate. We go on.

The Church Introduced The Feast of All Souls

There is little doubt that the Church sought to either eliminate but better, supplant the pagan festival of the dead which for example we even expect the dead to visit – remember what we said before – visit their living relatives this time of the year. And, and this is what the Protestants or comparative religion is say the Church, then – to replace the pagan practice of recalling the dead even coming back and appearing to their living friends on earth – introduced the Feast of All Souls. As Christianity spread, gradually over Europe and the British Isles it tried, I would say, quite successfully, but note my language, quite successfully, to displace pre-existing pagan cults devoted into the worship of certain pagan gods. One thing we should remember, in the years of teaching Theology to my own Jesuits – twenty-five years to be exact – I’ve told them that in the northern countries and I mean, in general, north of the Alps – in Germany, parts of Switzerland and, of course, Norway, Sweden, Finland, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland. The missionary effort though remarkably successful had not been, and I think I might even use the verb has not been as effective as in the Mediterranean world or say as successful as it had been in Africa.

Not All The Bishops Condemned Arius

For example, in 325 A.D. the first General Council of the Church which condemned, remember, Arius who denied Christ’s Divinity. Not all the Bishops assembled at Nicea condemned Arius. The numbers we don’t know for sure. Not the majority but, at least, a sizeable minority went back home to their dioceses and sided with Arius who denied Christ’s Divinity. It was almost no exception; they were from the Northern, what we now call Anglo-Saxon countries. Do you hear me? Date: 325 A.D.

Anglo-Saxon Culture Has Been Deeply De-Catholicized

It is not, then, coincidental by any means - in the years of teaching Theology, oh, how I stressed - not just in the past generation or two, but over the centuries - over the centuries the most devastating heresies have come from those same countries. And now, sad to say, pains me to say it but say it I must! Not excluding Ireland. Am I clear? When the Irish turn heretics, they become militant. By the end of the Middle Ages the celebration of All Hallows Eve or popularly Halloween - even to use the word Halloween in a religious context seems to almost well, blaspheme the name which shows how deeply, deeply our Anglo-Saxon culture has been de-Catholicized.

Only One Reformation – Reformation of The Catholic Church

By the end of the Middle Ages, the celebration of All Hallows Eve was an established part of the annual calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Then came Protestantism or as its sympathizers call it the Reformation. Never - unless you’re in a daze and are not responsible for what you’re saying: Never use the word; never use the word, Reformation to speak of Protestantism. Never! There was only one Reformation and that was the Reformation of the Catholic Church. But you see how the very words have penetrated our English vocabulary.

English Language Not A Vehicle for Catholicism

As I’ve said more than once, I’m sure to you too; when after fifteen years of teaching Theology in Latin to my Jesuit priests and scholastics and then I was told by Superiors, John come this September you’ve got to teach Theology in English.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, it must be English.” My greatest - I mean this - my greatest mortification in the priesthood. And the reason is not subjective on my part. The English language is simply not a vehicle for Catholicism. Do you still hear me? Just isn’t. Where they use words that people don’t ordinarily use, borrowed from the Latin: They would explain and re-explain what you really mean; by that time you’ll have lost your class. After the so-called Reformation, the Protestants rejected this feast, that is, the Feast - both of All Saints and its Vigil along with other important ones such as Christmas and Easter - Do you hear me? And where Christmas have returned as Feasts is only because of the Catholic Church - do you still hear me?

How Many People Know What Halloween Means

Halloween folk customs of pagan origin; then what happened? They came back. Where? In England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Shetland Islands. In these places the inhabitants lighted bonfires on hilltops on the eve of October 31st and played Halloween games. They also engaged in divination by such means as putting kale, placing stones or nuts in the fire and throwing a shoe over the house. Do they still do that in the United States? Some divination occurred, even on the Church porch which was believed to be an especially reliable place to learn of future of events. In other words, the thesis behind this lecture is: That as Catholicism, in this case, was suppressed in the Anglo-Saxon world the paganism behind what then became the Feast of All Saints and its Vigil - all the paganism returned and Halloween now the name has remained Christian; but how many people even know what Halloween means? Pranks and mischief also became common on Halloween and I keep repeating always the primary place was Great Britain and as we know by the middle of the 20th century, the largest empire in world history; let me repeat, the largest empire in world history was the British Empire; control of hundreds of millions of people, much of Africa, a large part of Asia, the whole of India, Australia and, of course, with the dissemination of the English language.

Single And Most Important Fact in Modern History

As the German political leader Bismarck was asked on one occasion and what a question to be asked! And what an answer to give! He was asked, “What do you consider the single most important fact of modern history?” The single most important fact of modern history, without hesitation; the single most important fact of modern history is; that England and the United States speak the same language. We Americans think, oh how wrong can you be! We think we have been liberated from England. Oh no! Oh no! Oh no. Ideologically, we are under control. I know every syllable of what I am saying. How well I know!

Halloween - Return of Unqualified Paganism

Immigrants from Great Britain and, of course, when we speak of Great Britain, it doesn’t just mean England though I must say the longest I’ve had in England - I’m in Europe quite often - was twenty-four hours recently. The flight was now leaving so I had to stay in a hotel overnight. But I watched for two things during my stay in London so that I could talk about it. Looked around to see about what percentage, as far as I could tell of the people that I saw, and I kept counting by tens; how many people out of ten seems to be, well English or British. My calculation is less than three. Seventy per cent of the people of England are no longer British: All kinds of other countries but no longer England. And not just, you might say, population-wise in terms of numbers but the ideas, the ideas that the English-speaking world has had for the last four and a half centuries slowly, but very slowly and most English speaking Catholics have no idea, no idea what’s going on! Ninety plus percent of the books published in English are – what a safe statement – not Catholic. In other words, it was that close - immigrants from England or English speaking, English dominated countries brought the pagan practices that had been in vogue from before the time of Christ, especially to the United States. Through the latter decades of the 19th century some effort was made in the United States to control the pranks because some became, if not major, at least minor crimes. In some cities over-enthusiastic celebrants would cause great harm especially those whom they disliked. The bottom line is that Halloween is a return of unqualified paganism into cultures where Protestantism has de-Catholicized a nation and removed one of the clearest signs of an authentic Catholic mentality, namely, the veneration of the Saints.

Our Responsibility

I have a short paragraph conclusion: Our responsibility. Halloween has become so built into our national culture that it is simply taken for granted. Almost nobody knows or seems to care about this return of a pagan custom into what was once a Christian nation. Our responsibility is to do whatever we can to restore Halloween. What am I saying? And I’m being taped, to top it off: To restore Halloween to its Catholic place in the Church’s calendar. How? Know the Saints. As John Calvin wrote and he is the genius behind Protestantism: there are no saints, there are no saints. To invoke the saints - this once so called Protestant confession after another - to invoke the saints is blasphemy!

Know The Saints: Promote Their Writings

Our Catholic responsibility: Know the Saints who we do believe in and at least, even one small book on the life of, either a saint or, of the saints, say, of the calendar year. Know the Saints. Promote the writings of the Saints. They have written extensively. Publicize the Lives of the Saints. This is not an exaggeration. Before my ordination, and it’s just as well I did not have a Xerox machine or some other way of making copies; I would write them out on little cards that I would, then, use as I have over the years - over 5,000 quotations from the saints before my ordination.

We Need The Saints

Accept for these Saints - I mean this with all my heart - I wouldn’t be standing here. Before God this is one of the two reasons why the Church canonizes Saints: One is to assure us that a canonized saint is infallibly in Heaven and, secondly, that we might, read, learn on how the saints thought, how they lived and imitate their virtues. When I first read this over forty years ago that St. Alphonsus Ligouri took a vow never to lose a moment of time, it changed my life, We need the Saints. Know them. Promote them. Publicize their lives. Use the media to make the Saints known, invoked and imitated by others. And you mothers and fathers all I can tell you is my mother managed to finish the first five grades in grammar school in Europe. One reason over the years I’ve often asked my audiences questions - I can ask you. How would you answer this? Are all educated people intelligent? Yes or no. Are all educated people intelligent? No! Noooo! And the most stupid are so many PhD’s - are you sure the tape is working for the videotaping? Next question. If not all educated people are intelligent, are all intelligent people educated? Noooo! And given the condition of education in our country, it’s just as well.

Memorize The Sayings of The Saints

Memorize the sayings of the saints. I didn’t expect to make this but let me do this. I’m not quite sure – its sometime in November that our next class is. When do we meet the next time? November the 15th, November the 13th? Ok - so November the 13th I would like all of you - of course I trust your integrity - let me make it as easy as I can. Would you please turn in three quotations from Saints, three saint’s quotations. Identify the Saint and put your name on too. Ok? And then I’d like to have you promise that you’ll memorize what you have written down.

Memorize As Much of The Bible And Writings of The Saints As You Can

Over the years in teaching priests, I tell them there’s nothing more valuable than to memorize as much as you can of the Bible, especially the New Testament and from the writings of the saints. We need it!

Use Halloween to Restore Saints in Our Lives And in History

And one last recommendation: Use the occasion of Halloween to restore Saints to their place in our lives and National History. And I thank you for the opportunity of speaking on Halloween, as Halloween really should be spoken of - as the Vigil of All the Saints. Thank you for listening. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Copyright © 2005 by Institute on Religious Life

Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon gave to the
Institute on Religious Life

Institute on Religious Life, Inc.
P.O. Box 410007
Chicago, Illinois 60641

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