Catholics and Halloween

The Great Christian Feast-Halloween – by Michael Dubruiel

This is one of those thoughts that comes to you in a moment of clarity with such force that you wonder how it could be that everyone just doesn’t see the truth of it.

Last night when I made one of my few trips to the door to hand out candy, it just hit me. There I was confronted with a skull painted white on the face of an African American, who was standing there holding open a bag, expecting something from me.

A home invasion? No.

Trick or Treat!

I gladly obliged his request with a handful of candy and he turned and went on his merry way to join the other hordes of beggars that flooded our streets.

I had just fulfilled the mandate of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I had just welcomed Him in the guise of the hungry, “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat.” Matthew 25!

“When did we see you Lord?”

“Whenever you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.”

Is there anytime left in our year when Americans are so blatantly Christian, welcoming the strangers that come to their door? Is there anytime that we reward those who on purpose try to repulse us by their costumes?

Yet the thought that it is better to give than receive dominates this day and truly the day fulfills its purpose of being the eve of All Saints Day! For if we are ever to join the saints we must learn to make everyday Halloween!

So that today when we meet those we might otherwise demonize, we give what we have freely as though we were meeting Christ Himself in the streets (and if we believe the Gospel message we are in fact meeting him)!

I used to joke that strangers could in fact be demons, (this was when the angel rage was in full swing and I use to make the point that yes a stranger might be an angel but who is to say if it is a good one or a bad one–sort of a twist of the Glenda the Good Witch’s question to Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”), but I would ask you to reflect on Halloween a bit more with me.

If we give to the stranger, indeed we welcome them as Christ. But if we look at the stranger only as someone who has something to give and we judge them based on that we are apt to conclude that all strangers are demons!

For example if we start viewing every middle eastern looking Arab that we do not know personally as a terrorist we are forgoing an opportunity to see them as Christ (who happened to be of middle eastern descent). Abraham was visited by three strangers (one would presume of middle eastern descent) and he fed them–they turned out to be angels and they gave him a blessing! But let’s suppose that we in fact do come across some terrorists in our daily activities. What if our interaction with them, seeing them as Christ and giving them whatever we have to give at that moment (even if it is only a smile of acceptance) led them to change their whole way of viewing Americans?

It is sad to think that a day that is the perfect example of what it means to be a Christian has been protested by so many Christians in this country. Do they read the Gospels?

No one is celebrating or worshipping demons on Halloween. The children who dress up in their costumes are playacting and giving the individual behind every door an opportunity to imitate Christ.

It is also sad that many miss the point in the other direction. They overdo it in the name of “everyone else is doing it” and light their houses up as though it is Christmas, rather than encountering the little masked Christs in the darkness the way it is intended to happen and does happen in daily lives. The vacuous nature of their souls demands making a show of their giving. Sadly they have already received their reward–the empty praise of their neighbors and friends.

There have been moves lately among some Catholics to have children dress up as saints– this may be a fine thing to do on All Saints day but it totally misses the point of Halloween. We will never be saints, nor will we imitate them, until we open the door everyday and welcome the ghouls we encounter as though they are Christ.

Catholics and Halloween

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 52b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 52 part 2

Michael Dubruiel

(52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.

….

“Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply `Yes’ or `No’; anything more than this comes from evil”, (Matthew 5: 33-37).

It seems like this says pretty well what we are to avoid. Yet isn’t it strange how this basic teaching of Jesus is ignored? How we still speak vows before God and man?

The teaching of Jesus is pretty clear that we are not God and we do not know what the future holds–God alone knows this. So any attempt on our part to declare that we will do something forever is actually rather unchristian–I know that this will be misunderstood so let me clarify. God is the source of our existence and our life. Every act that we do throughout the day should be dependent upon His Will for us. Anytime that our attitude is that we can do anything without his help we are as Jesus says doing something that “comes from evil.”

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 52a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 52 part 1

Michael Dubruiel

(52) To guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech.

This counsel will be followed by another which was read while I was recently a guest at the monastic table of the monks at Saint Meinrad Archabbey-namely “not to love much speaking,” which solves much of the problems that we might encounter with this counsel. Guarding one’s tongue, catching oneself before one speaks, is a valuable maxim especially if you are an extrovert who speaks whatever crosses your mind. The same might be said for introverts who are apt to do the same in writing (and in the days of blogs, instant messaging and email–the dangers are plenty!).

What is “bad” and “wicked” speech?

If we look to the Gospels for an answer we might be surprised at what Jesus identifies as such–vows:

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 51b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 51 part 2

Michael Dubruiel

(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.

…..

Then we should allow our spiritual father to point out to us that our trust is to be placed in God’s power and not in our own ability to reform.

A trusting relationship with a spiritual father can greatly aid our spiritual growth, but we should never allow this “advice” to become anything more than that. Too often people have fallen greatly because they made their spiritual father into their “god” rather than as a means to grow closer to God.

Sinful thoughts can grow in the dark. By bringing them to the light to someone who is wise in the spiritual life we shed light on our darkness. This has the effect of causing the cockroaches to scurry back into their hiding places. Naming our demons makes exorcising them a possibility.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 51a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 51 part 1

Michael Dubruiel

(51) And to disclose them to our spiritual father.

Having a trusted person to share our spiritual journey with is a fundamental aspect of the spiritual life. Catholics do this when they celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance to a degree, but it is done more completely when one chooses a spiritual director to guide them along their path to Christ.

This is no easy task for either the one giving direction or the one receiving it. It requires trust and openness. Above all it requires being open to the action of the Holy Spirit. There is always the danger in this process for abuse and one should never allow their “director” to lead them away from Christ.

But what if we are scrupulous and not trusting in the mercy of Christ? Then we should allow our spiritual mentor to direct us to the Gospels to encounter the Christ who forgives seventy times seven.

But what if our problem is a sin that we commit over and over again?

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God part 50

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 50:

(50) To dash at once against Christ the evil thoughts which rise in one’s heart.

St. Benedict’s counsel is wise. Our Lord gave his disciples “power” and that same “power” is available to us, we should avail ourselves tof this powert when we most need it. We need it most when evil thoughts are at their very infancy within our emotions, when they “rise in one’s heart.” At that moment we should run like a little toddler to Our Lord.

Being a disciple of Our Lord requires this child like faith. In fact the greatest evil thought that can arise in our hearts is to start thinking that we are finally “mature” enough in the spiritual life and don’t need to do this. As Our Lord said when his disciples returned from a very successful missionary journey, “I saw Satan fall like lightning!” Pride over the gifts that we have been given can quickly cut us off from the source of our salvation.

So with child like faith we move through life ever vigilant over our thoughts, scrupulously turning to Our Lord at every moment where evil seems to lurk.

Benedict’s image of ‘dashing against” calls to mind a clutching disciple, grabbing hold of Our Lord’s garment lest we fall. It is a good image because the desparation that it suggests is what we are faced with in our daily lives. As St. Paul said, “Examine yourselves, lest you fall.”

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God 49b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 49 part 2

Michael Dubruiel

(49) To hold as certain that God sees us everywhere.

This is the “type” of God who sees us no matter where we are, a loving God. One who is not up there waiting to strike us dead and send us to Hell, but one who is willing to come down and become a man and walk in our midst and to suffer and die when we reject Him–and then to come back again to offer us forgiveness. “His mercy endures forever.”

Today, and everyday be mindful of the presence of God, always with you no matter if you believe or not. In the words of an old Latin saying, Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit, “Bidden or not bidden God is present.”

October 22 – Pope John Paul II

You can get John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel and Amy Welborn here.  

In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O’Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

"michael Dubruiel"

73 Steps to Deeper Spirituality by Michael Dubruiel – 48b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 48 part 2.

(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.

….

Unfortunately, for me it was a one time event. But I have noticed that the more I pray, the more vigilant I become. The more I notice others that cross my path. The less I travel through my day on automatic pilot.

Most of us might raise the excuse of there being too many distractions in life for us to be truly vigilant. But therein lies the distinction–distractions demand our attention. What we call distractions are things that we are ignoring that are clamoring for our attention. The vigilant persons pays attention to everything they are doing and thinking.

The image of a psychic who seems to see and hear voices that no one else hears seems an apt representation of the vigilant person. All of us carry with us intense memories of past experiences, these play a heavy role in the way we act toward others. The vigilant person will discern the “other” people in the room so to speak when they encounter their daily contacts.

Prayer and discernment are both necessary to be truly vigilant in our actions. We need to truly see what creates our reactions to people and events and bring them to God. To free ourselves from inordinate attachments. As the Book of Wisdom says to be vigilant will “free us from all care.” No regrets, only gratitude.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Deeper Spirituality by Michael Dubruiel – 48a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 48 part 1:

(48) To keep a constant watch over the actions of our life.

We read in the Book of Wisdom “To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and he who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care”, (Wisdom 6:15). Vigilance is a hallmark of monastic life, it is why silence has always been valued in that setting.

Vigilance requires attentiveness. Everyone has had the experience where they arrive home after driving the daily route only to discover that they remember nothing about the trip they have just made presumably awake. Much of life can become so routine that we are oblivious to those around us.

Monks have a practice of keeping “vigil.” I once tried something similar when I attended school at a monastery. I decided that I would simply spend the night with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I took along a Bible, a rosary and sat in a small oratory. Just the Lord and me. The time passed rather quickly. There were no great revelations during that period of prayer, but what I did notice was that during the next few days everything seemed more intense. It was almost as though the world was suddenly in “high definition” vs. the black and white that it usually seems to be.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God – 47a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel.The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 47:

(47) To keep death before one’s eyes daily.

Momento Mori, “remember death” is an ancient spiritual maxim presented to us here by St. Benedict. Keeping one’s end in mind helps us to focus on what really matters. Many self-motivators have picked up on this and while avoiding “death” have sought to get people to meditate on what is really important in life.

Of course what happens after death matters a great deal if we are to focus on death. If one believes that nothing happens after death that focusing on it could be a morose practice that would only depress the person. If on the other hand one believes in the after life and a judgment then every decision I make in the present is moving me along a road in one of two directions–either toward heaven or hell.

Many people believe in a after life for absolutely no good reason. Many of them do not believe in God, but reaping the harvest of Christendom continue to carry around with them a vague sense that death is not the end. But this belief does not come from science.

Others, nihilists, belief in nothing but the present but in a rather dark manner, since death is the end that the whole of life is rather meaningless and existence is a bore.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God – 46b

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 46: part 2:

(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.

…..

A spiritual longing is much more focused on God and less on self. St. Paul desired eternal life with this type of longing when he wished if for his fellow men to the point that he himself would forgo it, if it would save them. Spiritual longing is always sacrificial and somewhat paradoxical.

Our Lord said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.” There is great wisdom in meditating on these words in light of St. Benedict’s maxim to “desire eternity with a spiritual longing.” We long to cleave to Christ, to imitate Him and to be united with Him, so to live with Him for all eternity.

Michael Dubruiel

73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God – 46a

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 46 part 1:

(46) To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing.

A spiritual longing is much more focused on God and less on self. St. Paul desired eternal life with this type of longing when he wished if for his fellow men to the point that he himself would forgo it, if it would save them. Spiritual longing is always sacrificial and somewhat paradoxical.

Our Lord said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.” There is great wisdom in meditating on these words in light of St. Benedict’s maxim to “desire eternity with a spiritual longing.” We long to cleave to Christ, to imitate Him and to be united with Him, so to live with Him for all eternity.

October 15 – Teresa of Avila

From the Office of Readings:

All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.

What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart.

Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favours, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.

-Michael Dubruiel 

73 Steps to Closer Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel – 45c

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are in the archives to the right. This is step 45:

(45) To be in dread of hell.

It is true that if you take your own notion of what Hell is like and then place God in the picture that it become Heaven. I can imagine being quite happy in Gehenna if I was there with Jesus watching people dump their garbage. In fact I can imagine enduring the worst that life can give and being okay with it if I had a strong sense that God wanted me there.

We should dread anything that will separate us from God’s love and Hell is the final separation. Fostering this dread will increase our appreciation for the availability of God’s love in the present moment. The final judgment has not happened for us yet, there is still time. Time to confess and let go of past sins. Time to reform our lives and live in the grace of God in the future. Time to dread the fires of Hell and to live for the glories of Heaven.

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