Immaculate Heart of Mary, Ora pro nobis.

This blog is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in reparation for all the sins committed against Her Most Pure Heart. May Her Immaculate Heart draw us closer to Her Divine Son, Our Most Precious Lord.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween? Holy Day or Pagan Playtime?

     As the uber-American holiday, Halloween, is getting underway today, I thought I'd re-address the topic that I discussed a few years ago on another blog.  If you wish, you can read that post here:  Saint, Souls, and Saturday.  Since Halloween is one of those days that many of my Catholic friends are reluctant to give up for fear of being cast as an extreme Christian fundamentalists, I thought I would approach it again on this blog.  If you are new to Catholicism or new to this blog, if you are a cradle-Catholic or a modern Catholic, if you do nothing else today, please spend some time looking at the origins of Halloween using reliable Catholic information.
     In my previous article on Halloween, I mentioned in brief detail how and why the Church, in Her wisdom, introduced the feast days of All Saints and All Souls Day.  These Holy Days have very real significance in the lives of faithful Catholics.  In fact, they are central to what we know about our lives, the lives of the Saints, Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother.  Celebrating these days in Catholic fashion is significant and important.  It is something we should be doing as Catholics.  These days remind us that death is nothing to fear, as long as we are living in faith and following our Lord's Commandments.  They remind us that, if we live our lives properly, we will be united in Heaven with all the Saints who have gone before us.  We are reminded that Our Lord conquers evil, that Our Lord conquers death, that death brings us to Heaven.
     These days from All Saints to All Souls also remind us to pray for our loved ones who may be suffering in Purgatory, waiting on the Mercy of Our Lord.  In fact, praying for the souls in Purgatory is a great moral good.  As such, traditionally the entire month of November is dedicated to the Suffering Souls in Purgatory.  To ensure that faithful Catholics continued to pray for the souls of the faithful departed, the Church attached to these prayers a plenary indulgence, or a forgiveness of the temporal punishments of sin.  In the special circumstance of All Souls Day, this indulgence shortens the time in Purgatory of our loved ones.  In other words, praying for the Suffering Souls in Purgatory actually helps them.
     In Catholic countries around the world, All Hallow's Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day were spent in seriousness, joy, and prayer.  Families made long trips to the cemeteries where their loved ones were buried.  On these days, they cleaned the graves, lit candles, and often prayed for hours.  In many places, family members gathered together before or after Mass on these days, sharing family stories of their loved ones, and gathering to pray Rosaries for their souls.  These were days that ushered in a month long period of prayer and penance in hopes that the souls of long lost mothers, fathers, grandparents, and even children made their way to Heaven where once again families could be reunited.  It was a special time, a beautiful time for families to reflect on their own mortality and hope in the Lord's salvation.
     However, these age old Catholic traditions are something our nation has never known.  American Catholics have little or no knowledge of these beautiful, ancient traditions.  Yes, our immigrant ancestors brought with them the ancient practices of praying for the dead, especially in the cemeteries during Hallow Mass and All Souls' Day.  But these early Catholics ancestors were few and far between.  But because the Protestants dominated our new country, they despised these practices, considering them superstitious and evil.  To counteract them, they began to establish there own fall festivals and bonfire parties.  They began to have plays, dances, and costume parties, mostly celebrating Guy Fawkes and Reformation Day, and incorporating American Patriotism. By the 1920s, the celebration and costume parties had become just another part of American life.
     Catholics in America were faced, on a daily basis, with a dilemma.  How could a faithful Catholic survive in the workplace, in the neighborhoods, in an increasingly hostile Protestant environment?  In spite of Pope Leo XIII warning Catholics regarding the dangers of "Americanism," Catholics found themselves accepting of and influenced by Protestantism, just to get along with their neighbors.  As such, American Catholics, Catholics first in heart, doctrine, and spirit, slowly evolved into Catholic Americans, Americans first in heart, doctrine, and spirit.  And one of the quintessential celebrations of American life was the Halloween/Fall Celebration.
     By the 1950s, Halloween was so popular in the United States, that trick-or treating, what had previously been a night young people used to tip over outhouses and vandalize fences, became a night for little children to dress up, go door to door in the burgeoning suburbs, and get piles of candy.  Shortly thereafter, the celebration itself lost all religious and political meaning.  It had become just another day for Americans to celebrate their Americanism.  It was fun and it was mostly harmless.  And it was a chance for Catholics and Protestants to play together all nicey-nice.
     Over the years, Halloween celebrating has become so popular for Americans, that it is poised to take over Christmas.   At the same time that Halloween has become so popular for Americans, it has also come along way since the kids trick-or-treating and candy of even my day in the 1970s.  And while these were familiar Halloween costumes in my neighborhood, costumes are becoming more macabre and frightening.  Adults are increasingly becoming more involved, using the night for drunken parties and mischief.  Even Americans agree.  Halloween has moved from childhood fun time, to adult party time.   As such, it is becoming sexualized and scary, reminiscent of pagan rituals of ancient times.
     So what is happening?  And what are Catholics to do?  Sadly, whether anyone Catholic wants to acknowledge it or not, Halloween is returning to it's pagan origins and celebrations.  As a growing population of Americans identify themselves as non-religious or not affiliated with any religious group, there are bound to be ramifications.  The holidays that once held some religious significance have become completely engulfed by secular materialism and commercialism.  The sad thing, though, is that those who do consider themselves religious continue to fully participate in the slide to secularism.  This slide into secularism, the loss of religious practices and identity, has opened the gates for Halloween to return to its godless, pagan origins.  Very few people, even Catholics, recognize what Hallows Evening is supposed to be about.
     All Hallow's Eve begins this evening.  This is the evening many Catholics would do well to go to Mass instead of trick-or-treating.  Visit the cemetery where your loved ones are buried.  Light a candle as a reminder that the Light of Heaven is their guide.  Pray a Rosary.  Instead of spending time at the shopping mall looking for that last minute zombie costume, reflect on the Communion of Saints.  Read a story about your name saint, if you have one.  Help your children make a costume of St. Joan, St. George, St. Lawrence, or St. Kateri.  Instead of grabbing bags of candy for trick-or-treaters, bring out the old photos of grandma and grandpa.  Make a list of all the faithful departed in your family.  Work on your family altar.  Call your friends, have them over for a Rosary and tea.  Rejoice.  Pray.  Make it a Holy Day again.  Help a Poor Soul in Purgatory.

But most of all, leave the pagans to themselves.

Efficacious Prayer for the Faithful Departed

O most compassionate Jesus, have mercy on the Souls detained in Purgatory, for whose redemption Thou didst take upon Thyself our nature and endure a bitter death.  Mercifully hear their sighs, look with pity upon the tears which they now shed before Thee, and by virtue of Thy passion, release them from their pains due to their sins.  O most merciful Jesus, let Thy Precious Blood reach down into Purgatory and refresh and revive the captive souls who suffer there.  Stretch out to them Thy strong right hand, and bring them forth into the place of refreshment, light, and peace.


May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.

This is dedicated to the baptized Catholics in my family, whose souls are hopefully in Purgatory, awaiting their eternal reward.  May God have mercy on their souls.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don't Look Now! The Emperor Has No Clothes!

     It has been some time since I posted.  I apologize.  I've had a mother to care for and a handful of children to homeschool.  It's been a rough two months.  But as issues with my mother are improving and the children are managing, I thought I'd write some more on politics as I had promised in the summer.
     I had wanted to write a lot of things, particularly about the history of Catholics in the United States, but recent events of the Catholic Bishops in the U.S have come to the forefront.  And I think it's a good opportunity to address what is wrong with the modern Catholic Church and why so many Catholics are ignorant of their faith and confused about how to cast a vote in this upcoming election.


     In case, the above image is not familiar to you, this is a photograph taken on October 18, 2012 at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York.  Okay.  So what?  Who is Alfred E. Smith anyway?  And why is this dinner occasion for Bishops to cozy up to politicians?  Interesting questions, really, with answers I had to research myself.
    First just who is Alfred E. Smith?  Most notably, Al Smith was the Governor of New York in the 1920s.  He was a Catholic and he was elected 3 times in New York to guide and serve the people of that state.  Al Smith was an Irish Catholic, born in Manhattan, and a member of  the Democratic Party political machine called Tammany Hall.  In spite of his involvement in Tammany Hall, Al Smith was smart enough to separate himself from it, expose the organizations corruption, and propose necessary reforms in the State of New York.  This made him both popular and unpopular, but made him a favored candidate for President in 1928 against Herbert Hoover.  Unfortunately, the religious sentiment across the country proved doom for the Democratic party ticket with a New York Catholic at is head and a Southern Protestant underneath.  The campaign was rife with problems and it brought to the forefront anti-Catholic bias in this country, particularly in the South.
     Anti-catholic sentiment was nothing new to the United States.  The first permanent settlements in the United States were made up of English and German Protestants fleeing their own persecutions.  They brought with them the propaganda and hatred borne out of Martin Luther's Protestant Revolt.  Catholics were routinely accused of horrible crimes, banned from communities, and prohibited from owning property, home educating their children, or participating in political activities.  There was, of course, the theological prejudices accusing the Catholic Church of being the "Whore of Babylon" and the accusations that Catholics, themselves, were Satan worshippers and idolaters.  In fact, it was dangerous in the early years of our Nation to be a Catholic.  
     Aside from the theological differences, many people in the Colonies feared the secular mindset of Catholics, in general.  It is perhaps why the Protestant legislators in the colonies enacted laws prohibiting Catholics from voting or holding office.  Catholics were primarily unafraid of a monarchical form of government.  They weren't opposed to municipalities governing with Catholic ideas or theology.  In fact, from a Catholic theological and political perspective, this was necessary.  As such, the Catholics weren't necessarily in support of freeing themselves from rule of a King, even if that King was not Catholic or corrupt.  It posed a great problem for the Protestant colonists in the colonies and there was always propaganda floating around to humiliate and isolate Catholics in the United States.
     As Catholic immigrants began flooding the United States in the 1800s, anti-Catholicism reached it's peak.  Protestant preachers ignited the flames in there sermons across the country.  They called for prohibiting Catholics from settling in many places and continued to ostracize them.  Across the country, churches were burned, Catholics were killed, and tempers flared.  It was a very nasty time in American history, and one of the only ways for U.S. Catholics to defend themselves was to fight back and separate themselves from the Protestants.  The U.S. soon became a nation divided between Catholics and Protestants.  
      One way the Catholics sought to defend themselves was through the school system.  In 1875, Pope Pius IX wrote a letter to the U.S. Bishops cautioning them of the danger to the souls of their children in the public schools.  In 1897, Pope Leo XIII issued an Encyclical insisting that Catholic children be educated in Catholic schools by Catholic instructors.  And as anti-Catholic sentiment continued to rise, it was this instruction that the Catholics in New York took seriously.  Tammany Hall, the political machine in which Alfred E. Smith was made, invested millions of dollars in Catholic schools across the country.  This caused such a controversy in the United States, that political cartoons sprung up further inciting the anti-Catholic bias in this country.  This was a very dark time for Catholics.
     Yet, in spite of the Catholic hatred in the country, Alfred E. Smith won the Democratic nomination for President in 1928.  And his nomination let loose another hailstorm of anti-Catholic sentiment, particularly in the South, where the KKK rose up in loud protest.  Of course, the campaign was doomed to fail, with Al Smith receiving merely 87 Electoral College votes.  In spite of the Democratic platform of improvements in education, federal money for farmers, and an end to Prohibition, the Republicans fostered the sentiment made by a Southern preacher:  "No subject of the Pope should be allowed to become President."  Even members of his own party campaigned against him out of fear that he would make America a Catholic nation.  
      After Al Smith's humiliating defeat, he attempted to run for President once more in 1932.  Of course, he lost that nomination to FDR, and he went on to become very outspoken against that President's New Deal.  He spent the rest of his life in vocal opposition to Roosevelt's New Deal policies, hoping for reforms.  He did in 1944.  In 1946, the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Spellman established the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation in memory of Mayor Smith and all the good works he had accomplished for Catholics in both politics and public service.  The goal of the foundation was and is to raise funds for the neediest people, especially children, in the Diocese of New York.  The main fundraiser for the Foundation has always been the Al Smith Dinner, the black tie affair where the wealthiest donors come for a night of fun and entertainment, with the explicit purpose of political elbow-rubbing.  Cardinal Spellman hoped to remind people of the importance and significance of Al Smith and Catholicism in our political history.  There have been only few occasions where current presidential candidates have not participated in the dinner.  In other words, it's a big deal for politicians and it's a big deal for Catholics.
     The Al Smith Dinner has a long history, then, in American politics.  It also has a long history with Catholic Charities and collecting donations for health care, schools, and food for needy families.  Perhaps these are the reasons why Cardinal Dolan saw fit to invite both the President and his rival to the dinner this year.  But for whatever reason, the Cardinal has left Catholics scandalized and confused.  Yet, this does seem to be the mantra of the modern Catholic Church---keep the faithful ignorant, confuse them more, and lead them to believe that evil is good, no matter what the degree.
     Bloggers all over the blogosphere are rightly outraged and confused by the Cardinal's actions this year.  There was a petition out to stop the Diner completely.  Others have just questioned why Cardinal Dolan would invite President Obama.  Some retained hope that Cardinal Dolan would use this as an opportunity to confront President Obama about his abortion views.     And then you've got the Catholics giving rounds of applause to His Emminence, Cardinal Dolan.      What are Catholics to make of this whole mess anyway?
     For clarity sake let's have a look at what the stink is all about anyway.  Most of the individuals in opposition to Cardinal Dolan's invitation to President Obama has to do with his view and policies on abortion, homosexual marriage, and his Marxist ideology.  They argue that the President's pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-government control of health care are incompatible with Catholicism and, therefore, he should not have been invited to the dinner at all.  These same people argue that Mr. Romney should have been the only one to speak since his views are consistent with or are at-least not as extreme as the President's.  I suppose that's their opinion.  However mine is much different.
    Until the 1980s, neither abortion, homosexuality, or Marxism had been on the radar or lips of American politicians.  Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney were at one time or currently are all supporters of abortion and or homosexual rights.  They have all been speakers at the Al Smith Dinner.  If these politicians have been invited and spoken at the Dinner, then why the outrage over Obama?  For what it's worth, Mitt Romney is also pro-abortion.  Why not be outraged that he was invited and spoke at the Dinner?  It's truly a puzzle to me.
     Why has there never been outrage before?  Simple.  Money.  The modern Catholic Church is no longer interested in saving souls or avoiding the cause of scandal.  The bishops and cardinals are only interested in one thing--political posturing to raise money for this project or that.  It's a real shame.  The Cardinal, if he had really taking his role as Shepherd seriously, could have refused to invite them both, and instead invited Rick Santorum who is both Catholic and unequivocably pro-life and pro-family.  He could have invited Mike Huckabee who is also.  Perhaps he could have invited Todd Akin.  Now wouldn't that have made a statement!  But no, His Emminence decided it would be best to continue to confuse Catholics by allowing them to think that Catholics can simply separate Catholicism from their life, from their political decisions, from the voting booth.
     This is a complete insult to the memory of Albert E. Smith.  There was a man who faced assault after assault for his Catholicism. Here was a  man who denounced the KKK, who openly tried to rid it's influence from the Democratic party.  He was ridiculed and derailed by members of his own party.  Why?  Only because he was a Catholic.  
     The Catholic Church has always been the last bastion of hope in the world.  She has always defended the helpless and hopeless.  She has always stood for Truth.  She has always protected her children from evil and guided them to the Son.  Yet, here we are with Cardinals hamming it up with two pro-abortion politicians telling you on one hand "This is a political dinner and we are raising money for a good cause." and on the other hand telling you "That both parties, both candidates are acceptable choices as long as you don't think too hard."  It is scandalous!
     So be careful, my Catholic friends.  You simply can no longer trust your Shepherds!  They are all wolves in disguise!

Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis!