Happy Feast of All Saints!

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Church Triumphant– all those glorious Saints in Heaven, whether canonized or not, who have fought the good fight of faith and won. It’s a great day to pray the Litany of the Saints. Praying the Litany of the Saints always brings to mind the first verse of Hebrews 12, and when reading Hebrews 12, I call to mind the Litany of the Saints…

“And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.”

Hebrews 12:1-3

We are not alone in the battle for sanctity. We are surrounded by the witness of those who have gone before us and left us examples of heroic virtue in faith and holiness. We look to them for guidance, strength, and encouragement knowing that we can do all things by the grace and merit of Jesus Christ.

So today, pray the Litany of the Saints… ask the Saints to intercede for you… and read up on the lives of the Saints!

Good Reads for All Saints Day:
Any biography on the lives of the Saints
Saints Who Raised the Dead by Fr. Albert Hebert
Mysteries, Marvels, Miracles: In the Lives of the Saints by Joan Carroll Cruz

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The Real Story of Halloween…

… Or “All Hallows Eve” (i.e., the evening of All Hallows– All Saints–Day) as it was traditionally known, is a Catholic holiday which unofficially recalls the reality of Hell and the despair of the damned. This ‘scary’ subject is the source for the scary/gory/evil ideas about Halloween which popular culture has turned into a celebration–not of triumph over evil– but a celebration of it. Is Hell a scary topic? Of course, but along with the reality of Hell and the punishment of the damned Catholic parents (and all in charge of handing on the Faith) are responsible for teaching the end of the story… namely, Our Lord’s words, “… rest assured for I have conquered the world.” (cf. John 16:33).

Instead of dressing up as secular/profane characters, today would be a good day to dress up as Saints and talk about their virtues and holiness. Instead of gorging on commercial candy, make some Italian ‘Ossi di Morto’ cookies (bone cookies), sugar skulls, toasted pumpkin seeds, “Soul Cakes” (doughnuts), etc.  and celebrate the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death (… and Hell) and the fact that through Him we can also be spared the eternal torment of damnation.

Lastly, since it is the last day of October (the month of the Rosary) pray a Rosary today for the conversion of unbelievers and the lukewarm.

Reads for Halloween:
The Dogma of Hell: Illustrated by Facts Taken from Profane and Sacred History by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ
(TAN Books has an edition that also includes How To Avoid Hell by Thomas A. Nelson)
Hell and its Torments by St. Robert Bellarmine
Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Life Everlasting by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Ossi di Morto Cookie Recipe (taken from FishEaters)

1 1/4 cups flour
10 oz almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pine nuts
1 TBSP butter
A shot glass full of brandy or grappa
The grated zest of half a lemon
Cinnamon
One egg and one egg white, lightly beaten

Blanch the almonds, peel them, and chop them finely (you can do this in a blender, but be careful not to over-chop and liquefy).

Combine all the ingredients except the egg in a bowl, mixing them with a spoon until you have a firm dough. Dust your hands and work surface with flour, and roll the dough out between your palms to make a “snake” about a half inch thick. Cut it into two-inch long pieces on the diagonal. Put on greased and floured cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg, and bake them in a 330-350 oven for about 20 minutes. Serve them cold. Because they are a dry, hard cookie, it is good to serve these with something to drink.

(I made these cookies last year along with some (poorly crafted) sugar skulls, and they are relatively easy to make and rather tasty!)

The History of the Jack-o-Lantern

In case you were wondering, Halloween (or “Hallows Eve”… the evening before All Hallows Day… or, All Saints now as it’s more commonly known) is an unofficial Catholic holiday to remember the reality of hell and to focus on how to avoid it (“in inferno nulla est redemptio”).

Jack-o-Lanterns were originally made from turnips. It was the Irish Catholics who spun a tale about a miserly man named Jack (known as “Stingy Jack”). He was a drunk, and he was a trickster who loved to make mischief on even his family and friends. One day Jack tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree and then carved Crosses into the trunk of the tree so the devil couldn’t get down. Jack bargained with the evil one, saying he would only remove the Crosses if the devil promised not to take his soul to hell. The devil agreed and Jack let him down. When Jack died, after so many years of vice, he appeared before the Pearly Gates of Heaven but was told by Saint Peter that he was too miserable a creature to see the face of Almighty God. But neither could the devil take his soul to hell, so Jack was doomed to wander the darkness on earth. Jack asked for something to at least light the way, and so the devil threw Jack an ember from the burning pits which Jack placed into a hollowed out turnip and carried with him. He became known as Jack of the Lantern (Jack-o-Lantern). Thus, on Hallows Eve (Halloween), the Irish would dress up in scary costumes to chase away evil spirits, and put out carved turnip lanterns to keep Stingy Jack away. When the Irish immigrated to America where turnips were not readily available, they used pumpkins instead.