All Saints and Souls

In front of haunted house during Halloween sea...Image via Wikipedia
Looking ahead to next week sees a strange trilogy of holidays — Halloween (Celtic Samhain) on Monday; All Saints on Tuesday Nov. 1 followed by All Souls — 

The church has been celebrating All Saints Day since the 3rd century;

It’s an opportunity to commemorate all the saints, known and unknown and even potential ones in the making maybe, and then there's heaven, hell, the beatific vision ( whatever happened to that ?); and then there's purgatory to reflect on  - don't here much about purgatory these days.  

But the church practice of praying for indulgences to get time off in purgatory has been revived under Pope Benedict XVI.
From this article 

 From a New York Times article
"Indulgences were one of the traditions decoupled from mainstream Catholic practice in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, the gathering of bishops that set a new tone of simplicity and informality. 

Its revival has been viewed as part of a conservative resurgence that has brought some quiet changes and some highly controversial ones, like Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to lift the excommunications of four schismatic bishops who rejected the council’s reforms.

The indulgence is among the less noticed and less disputed traditions to be restored. But with a thousand-year history and volumes of church law devoted to its intricacies, it is one of the most complicated to explain.
For folks in my generation, the indulgence is primarily known as the means through which the existence of the entire universe is threatened in the movie Dogma, so I’m not sure I welcome its revival.
Still, given Pope Benedict XVI’s overall conservatism, I suspect that this is just the first of many old traditions that Catholics can expect to see revived. 
Other traditions I expect to pop back up include the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and the Spanish Inquisition. Just kidding on that last part, of course. 

Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition."

"For centuries the payment of money brought deliverance from purgatory.
That practice eventually troubled  Martin Luther's conscience and sparked the Reformation. 
This is from a sales pitch of the Dominican Friar Tetzel, commissioned by Pope Leo X to reap a fortune for Rome: "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs"!"

Indulgences were a system of extortion by which people would give their money to the church -  in exchange for a lighter punishment for their sins.

The church has "made merchandise of...souls of men" . Popes published lists of every crime from incest to piracy to murder with a price for each sin - which the Church would give absolution for each (according to the monetary payment)."

Read this article on why indulgences are making a comeback in the Catholic church supposedly with a more modern emphasis.. we need to go to confession more but there are no payments involved...

 and a very erudite article on it all here - Warning ! it involves heavy words like expiation.

I think limbo got the boot somewhere along the way..

- I remember the whole idea of limbo used to bother many Catholics when I was growing up and involved some mightily cruel idea that unbaptised babies ended up there. 

Hence why there was a manic practice of getting a baby baptised as soon as possible- in some sense it's nice to think of baptism as a sacrament that is the first formal welcome from the church  to a baby into the hands of a loving God and the community,  but like so many rules and regulations it became to be seen by many as just another perverted form of spiritual blackmail - things have thankfully changed for the better.

Purgatory seemed to be a milder form of spiritual abuse, inveighed with more scales of being weighed and found wanting, although we were re-assured that the sins involved in putting a person in purgatory were already forgiven but it still was pay back time; so it was a place for some hope , a gentler embellishment of hell in a waiting room of sorts with a heavenly carrot on the end - an extra chance to get to heaven - really weird.

The night of Halloween (Celtic Samhain - pronounced sow -wen), also called All Hallows Eve, is traditionally the eve of the celebration of all the hallowed saints. 

In Celtic Culture it celebrated the end of a year, and represented the final harvest for farmers. and was also associated with death. It is believed that on the night of October 31 the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year travelled to the Otherworld.

People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits and vegetables at this time. They also lit bonfires in honour of the dead, to aid in their journey, and to keep them away from life.

The Celtic Spirituality writer, Fr. John J. O" Riordain, writes of All Saints/All Souls in his book Irish Catholic Spirituality, Celtic and Roman:

Irish hospitality extended no less to the dead than to the living.  It is still with us and has always been characteristic of our religious expression.  There was a widespread belief, for instance, that the dead members of the family visited their old home at the beginning of November, the ancient pagan Irish feast of Samhain .
  Leaving the door unlocked, having a good fire in the hearth, and the placing of a bowl of water on the table was a common mode of preparing the house for a visit from the dead at Samhain.  So too was the custom of lighting a candle for each deceased family member--a ritual performed during evening prayer in the home.

  Kevin Danaher, the folklorist, once asked an old man if he was in dread of entering a haunted house.  'In dread of it?' replied the old man.  'What would I be in dread of, and the souls of my own dead as thick as bees around me?'  

  Whether people are 'alive' or 'dead' makes little difference on this night, for The Celts are fond of a tradition that draw no hard and fast lines between life in gleann na ndeor, the vale of tears, or Tir na nog, the Land of Eternal Youth-- heaven. 
Dublin:  The Columba Press, 1998.

The custom of trick or treat explained here

As for All Souls Day, it seems that celebrating all the saints that have passed before us made people to want to also remember all the slightly-less-than-saintly friends and family who have died and it also stemmed from pagan celebrations of putting out food and such for the dead to join you in a meal. On All Souls Day there are requiem masses to remember the faithful departed.

In Mexico All Saints and All Souls are combined in a two day spectacular national holiday celebration known asThe Day of The Dead .( El Dia de Los Muertos).

This was part of the culture long before the arrival of the Conquistadors, but was incorporated by the colonizing Spaniards into the Catholic holy days of All Souls and All Saints.
It is a salutary reminder to us that in the midst of life we are in death, that death is the great equalizer; pawns, kings and queens and their castles, the  knights and bishops (!) all end up in the same box at the end of this game of life.

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...Image via Wikipedia

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