One of our parish’s former priests, Fr Charlie Willis always reminded us in his homilies that we were all saints with a small “s”. This was especially poignant in November when we celebrate All Souls and All Saints days as well as Halloween. In Pope Francis’ book The Joy of Discipleship, he tells us “the feast of all saints reminds us that the goal of our existence is not death.” Fr Charlie consistently reminded us of our goodness. All Saints Day reminds us that all the holy people (all the saints) show us that being holy really means being who we are in life. The saints are our companions in life.
Halloween (All Hallows Eve) Did you know? All Hallows’ Eve falls on October 31st each year, and is the day before All Hallows’ Day, also known as All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar. … The name derives from the Old English ‘hallowed’ meaning holy or sanctified and is now usually contracted to the more familiar word Hallowe’en. (https://www.bbc.co.uk)
There was a dark history of Halloween. Historians have linked Halloween to Samhain, the Celtic festival of the summer’s end celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. According to Celtic mythology, the veil between the Otherworld and our world thins during Samhain, making it easier for spirits and the souls of the dead to return. (https://wwwbusinessinsider.com)
So where does Ignatian Spirituality fit in to this very brief clarification of information as it relates to Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day? In the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, writes Michelle Francy-Donnay in her article Deep in the Darkness, she says, “St. Ignatius recommends spending one period of prayer in the middle of the night, around midnight. In his contemporary reading of the Exercises,” David Fleming, SJ, suggests that in these midnight meditations we are rested and receptive to God in ways hard to manage when the world is bustling about. “Empty yourself,” said St. Romuald in his Rule, “and sit waiting, content with the grace of God.” Bill Gaultier in his article Don’t Let Your Shadow Defeat You speaks of Jung who taught we all have a shadow side, that dark side we try to ignore or deny even when it keeps tapping at us within the soul. As you read and come to know the lives of the saints you will see most if not all of them struggled with their shadow/dark side. Yet we now look to them for inspiration, connections, to affirm our own shadow/dark side and our true self.
How does this reflect the teaching of St Ignatius?
It is our belief in the resurrection, in acknowledging we carry the light of Christ in our soul and heart. It is in the honoring of the humanity of the saints and how they persevered to grow their relationship with God that All Hallows Eve might take on new meaning for us this year, this Ignatian Year. Vanita Hampton Wright says to simply enjoy the little ones on Halloween and greet their parents and introduce yourself to them if you have not yet met. She said the little ones just enjoy dressing up in costumes and receiving free candy, they do not carry the bias or disagreement or questioning some adults might have about Halloween. A little girl at Costco last week looked at me and said “there are a lot boys costumes here, where are the girls costumes? I replied that girls can be whoever they want to be and she replied, “I want to be Elsa from Frozen.” She was very determined to find that costume.
The potential is there for the light of childhood delight to bring light to our inner space. Halloween helps us adults confront our dark side and it can open the door to faithful influence. Taking and sharing the goodness of our faith can open a path to embrace and honor what traditions might be unfamiliar to us. These holy days can also be immensely beautiful teaching moments, for yourself, for others in your family or the children in your life.
The saints of old and even our contemporary saints were the error prone humans we all are, having doubts as did St Therese of Calcutta, fear of death as did the Jesuit martyrs and yet continuing to do the work they were compelled to do when answering the call to their ministry. Many saints learned through their lifetime how to grow from an understanding of their shadow side and to bring prayer to that shadow place and allow God’s light to open and provide self-forgiveness, self-compassion and self-understanding. Any one of the saints that we have some knowledge about struggled not only to experience an even deeper relationship with God, they experienced fears and doubts, and even ecstasy in their moments of prayer that brought them closer to God.
St Ignatius struggled too with doubt and fear. In the dark and quiet moments of his prayer, he experienced the light of Christ and trust as God illuminated his shadow-self and he accepted the invitation to go deeper. We are given that same invitation from St Ignatius and all the saints, to notice God in all things each day and in every moment. So enjoy your favorite candy treat, maybe play a bit and dress up in a costume to notice your shadow-side and invite it to stay awhile so you can get to know each other rather than hiding from what you do not want to see. Have one of the candy bars you really bought for the trick or treaters. As St Ignatius invites us everyday to use our imagination, what do you imagine your shadow-self and /or the saints might teach you? Love your error prone humanity and join in “When the Saints Go Marching In” to honor your inner saint with a small “s”. Peace and Blessings!