Since having children, every year around this time I get a little anxious. This is due almost entirely to the fact that I have to be very intentional about the way I parent. Fortunately, our Catholic faith provides so many wonderful feasts and traditions regarding All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Unfortunately, these traditions do not usually match what the rest of our culture is doing to celebrate. I should really always be intentional about parenting, I don’t mean to say that I’m not. But it’s during this time that I know that I will be giving my children information that, for the most part, is contradictory to what they see and hear around them. I want them to know that the Eve of All Saints is a time of preparation, a day like so many in our liturgical year offered to us to help us get ready. Usually, these “Eves” are a time of fasting, a time of increased prayer and reflection, a time for penance. In this case, it’s a time to do all of those things as a way to remember and honor the souls of those who have died and are either a) Enjoying the beatific vision in the presence of Almighty God as officially recognized (canonized) Saints on the Feast of All Saints November 1st; or b) Preparing for that reality by first undergoing purification on the Feast of All Souls November 2nd. But I can’t help but wonder, “Will the kids be confused by fake spider webs and inflatable monsters?” Will they ask, “What do Jack O’Lanterns and buckets of candy have to do with praying for souls?”
I’m so thankful that I have thousands of years of tradition to look to. I’ll be the first to admit that as a student, history was never my favorite subject. I never appreciated the anthropology of it. Looking back, I’m not sure how I missed that, thinking it was just a bunch of dates to memorize. But now I’m finding that everything has a precedent. I’m not the only person to have ever navigated these waters. Many have gone before, and are doing it now, and I can share in their wisdom. Especially thanks to the internet! So what we came up with was a bit of a hodge-podge that I think blended all the important and fun elements rather nicely.
This year, we also had the added bonus of grandparents and great-grandparents visiting. Those times are special no matter what we’re doing. That, and I happen to have terrific kids who make the best of pretty much everything. Saturday was Halloween, and I can always count on Ms. Carol to send a fun box of goodies and treats for the kids. That morning, we opened the box and pulled out the decorations, the crafts, the cool cups, the black and orange hair bows, and the coloring pages. We spent several hours just playing with the stuff and decorating the house.
Peppered throughout, we talked about the next day’s feast, what happens when you die, and things we see outside our own home this time. Yes, there are lots of fall activities, celebrations surrounding the harvest and the end of another growing season. These help to remind us that we too will experience an autumn in life. Where we prepare for our ultimate end, death. I want our kids to be mindful of death all the time. It is inevitable, yes, and also, it’s an important step toward what we are ultimately made for, to become Saints and spend eternity with God. It’s hard to spend a life preparing for that if we don’t talk about it. There are many expressions of these things in the culture at large, and some of them are silly. Some of them are misunderstood. There’s no reason to fear death unless your choose to spend eternity separated from good. And that would certainly be scary. It’s important for us to keep always at the front of our minds that in dying we are born into eternal life, either with God or without Him.
The rest of the day we were preparing in a different way. Preparing for company. Cleaning the house, baking some cornbread to go with dinner, doing to laundry, typical Saturday stuff. And then when the kids woke from naps, I took them for a surprise to the pumpkin patch. We picked out pumpkins (and cider donuts!), and came home to wait for our guests. When they arrived, we had a delicious pot of chili on the stove and we enjoyed each other’s company immensely. We carved our pumpkin, trick-or-treated in the comfort of our own home (Katherine’s idea), and worked on the candy corn necklaces from the box of fun stuff. The girls re-distributed the candy to the adults about fifteen times and asked for it back again and again. They had a couple pieces, and headed off to bed.
Sunday, we were so blessed to all assist at Mass together. As a special treat, we went out to breakfast at the cutest cafe, and then went to celebrate all the Saints by seeing some of them at this museum. Chris’s parents and grandparents had to get back home, and we enjoyed an afternoon nap. One last bit of celebrating outside with a bonfire and s’mores.
Monday morning our co-op, we remembered the Holy Souls in Purgatory in a special way. We made soul cakes, and even though I had to search for anything other than Sting’s rendition, we also listened to Soul Cake, the traditional song begging alms were on hand in exchange for the promise of prayer for souls in the family of that household. What a great tradition. I thought about knocking on some doors to see if anyone else had some soul cakes and slips of paper with names I would have been happy to pray for, but sadly, I think I would have been met with some blank stares. Oh well, paired with some sparkling pumpkin cider, we certainly enjoyed them. And pray for the poor souls (so called because they can no longer pray for themselves) we did. I am so grateful to have an entourage of other moms who are working to raise up their children with many wonderful traditions of faith.
The celebration continued later on in the week, because our Little Flowers group had an All Saints Day party. I had the privilege of escorting St. Michael, St. Cecilia, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
I love that our kids have plenty of holy heroes to look to for guidance, inspiration, and intercession. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I didn’t really appreciate history–I failed to make the connection with the people. That is something that my faith has helped with tremendously. Sure, kids can chose to emulate superheroes who can spin webs and project bat signs in the sky. But those aren’t real. Men and women who stood with Christ in their day, and committed themselves to the service of God with every fiber of their being? That’s heroic. And we have them to look to and imitate. How fortunate we are.
The other (unrelated) highlights of our week include:
A reading lesson outside after finding my little reader nestled on the couch surrounded by good books.
And love in the air (love has an interesting smell…)