Monday, November 2, 2009

11-01-2009: All Saints (B)

Feast of All Saints
Revelation 7:2-4,9-14/Psalm 24/1 John 3:1-3/Matthew 5:1-12
Halloween’s association with the Catholic Feasts of All Saints and All Souls affords an opportunity to examine the relationship between paganism and Christianity in the ancient past as well as the emergence of Neo-paganism in our Judeo-Christian culture today. Halloween, the ancient pagan feast of Samhein, was perhaps the pre-Christian Celtic New Year, when the dead were believed to cross over into the world of the living as summer gave way to winter and nights grew longer and colder; the voices of the dead crying out on the deserted bog, as it were, inculcating dread and fear while demanding appeasement from the hopeless. When the Church co-opted the pagan feast, in effect baptizing it, the fear that was the hollow heart of pagan Samhein was converted into a hallowed hope for peace and joy.

There is more than one kind of fright. One that inspires a hopeless dread and another that despite its initial scariness, evokes - from children especially - laughter and near glee because they intuit that what at first frightened ultimately holds no danger. That’s why we no longer call it Samhein but Halloween – the eve of All Hallows, the eve of All Saints’ Day which, on an older liturgical calendar, was celebrated with that of All Souls. The co-opting of this pagan feast by the Church no doubt sought to capitalize on the remnants of pagan practice among the Celts but, much more significantly, upturned the dread of darkness and death into a hope sprung from the conviction that death no longer held sway. Jack-o-lanterns, witches on broomsticks, ghosts and goblins gave way to the holy souls of the faithful departed who were not out to frighten us, the Church revealed, but to be our friends united with us in prayer on our journey toward heaven.

Neo-paganism, as a religious movement in the West, has slowly emerged through the twentieth century and has now gained a respectability of sorts. In our democratic society it claims equal footing as one religion among many. And, indeed, its practitioners can and do enjoy the benefits of citizenship in a free society; they even run for public office. In fact, the Republican candidate running for the City Council from District 19 (Bayside), once a Catholic is now, by his own admission, a practicing pagan, claiming the title “Lord” of his own religious “Tribe.” He, like any other citizen, has the right to run for elected office. All well and good. But when the tenets of his particular cult or religion expressly condemn the beliefs of many of his hoped-for constituents as evil, constituting “the crime of warlockery,” then questioning him on such beliefs should not be off limits but made public, if the interests of democratic governance are to be upheld.

The Republican candidate for City Council from our district, not a lapsed Catholic as some say, but a professed pagan, not only rejects Christianity but calls Christian Baptism a “molestation” and “a treason against the Gods,” as well as a personal affront against his person as “Lord of the Tribe” - that is - a personal affront against the Republican candidate for City Council himself. One wonders how, if elected, he can fairly represent the interests of his Christian constituents when he holds their faith in such disdain. No wonder the Republican candidate has dismantled his “tribal” website and, with duplicitous intent, flaunts his Catholic education. Some say it’s a private matter and should not be part of the public debate. Yet, wouldn’t an African-American constituency want to know if the candidate running to represent them were a member of the KKK, or a Jewish constituency have the right to know if a candidate was a member of a neo-Nazi bund?

There is no doubt that the Republican candidate for the City Council in District 19 despises the faith of the Catholic Church. Without open discussion on the matter of his religious convictions, one can only conclude he must despise her members as well. The fear and hopelessness that was once the hollow heart of pagan Samhein, so long rendered powerless by the promise of hope, now rears its head again: Voter Beware!

1 comment:

  1. Father, with all due respect, can't one argue that any non-Catholic might be hostile to Catholicism and Catholics?

    If you wanted to show that Halloran himself would be hostile to Catholics should he have gotten elected, you should have provided direct examples from his life instead of drawing conclusions from his pagan beliefs. Just as "Christian" churches have different teachings and practices, not all "pagans" believe the same things. Did Halloran ever vandalize a church, rip up a picture of the Holy Father, or support any anti-Catholic campaigns? Were you aware that Mr. Halloran's Catholic faith was shattered after he (in his late teens) lost his father to prostate cancer?

    You have to admit there have been Catholic politicians in both major parties who have opposed the Church's teachings, most notably on abortion. Speaking solely for myself as a practicing Catholic, I'd rather vote for a pro-life atheist (yes, they exist) or a pro-life pagan than a pro-abortion Catholic.