October is a very Catholic month. Most of us over 60 know it as the month of the Holy Rosary with memories of families on their knees every night after supper reciting the rosary together. Back then we didn’t realize the w-i-d-e range of our faith’s influence on the October calendar.
Of course, there’s a stack of October saints’ days with several popular favorites: Oct 1 & 15 for Sts. Thérèse and Teresa, Oct 2 for guardian angels (we all have one or two), Oct 4 for St Francis of Assisi (favorite saint for non-Catholics’ garden statues), 11 & 22 for Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, 18 for St Luke, 19 for the American Jesuit martyrs, and 2 apostles on Oct 28, St Jude (for impossible cases) and St Simon (man of MYSTERY). Which one is your favorite?
Add to that list the fact that October is celebrated as “heritage month” for many nations whose immigrants (including many Catholics) have enriched the USA as Filipino Americans, German Americans, Hispanic Americans, Italian Americans, Native Americans, Polish Americans, and Scandinavian Americans. No wonder Oct 20-26 is United Nations Week every year. And a good reminder that Catholic means “here comes everybody” and that’s how our country prospers.
Of course we can’t avoid the final act of October Catholicism: Halloween. Too bad it is the holiday [< holy + day] that has lost much of its Catholicism and its holiness.
By now the deivation of the word Halloween from the Old English for All Saints Eve(ning) is almost a secret. The Catholic attempt to “baptize“ the pagan “celebrations” (really “anti-demon rituals”) of the newly Christian tribes in the 8th century is only half done. Making November 1st a feast day of all the saints that didn’t have a special day (including all of our worthy deceased relatives) overcame the superstitious fear of those terrifying nights every year when the God of darkness and death defeated the God of light and life and spirits roamed freely. Still, the ancient spooky ideas live on in how we celebrate Halloween today.
Sure, these days we enjoy the All Saints Day parades of young children dressed as saints and God certainly sends us benefits when those little kids try to be saintly the rest of their lives. I like the notion that I am celebrating my parents and grandparents being saints in heaven. And All Souls Day gives us great comfort and reminds us that we will all be needing prayers some day. But most of the fun of Halloween now comes from those old pagan stories and we have lost its connections to the saints.
How about trying to get the saints back in the game this month? Maybe going to Mass on the day of your favorite October saint? Or making sure to speak to each of them in your prayers (morning or night or before meals) on the days of their feasts? Or saying just one rosary in thanksgiving for your ancestors being real saints that you can pray to? And promising your guardian angel that you’ll vote every year right after Halloween so that we can keep our nation on the right track.