Sharing Again: Favorite Halloween Posts

Halloween haunted house scene

I’ve written two posts on the subject of Halloween that you may find helpful to re-read or discover for the first time this year.

Five Reasons Not to Dismiss Halloween
As you encounter the ghosts and goblins, the heroes and outcasts, say a prayer of thanks for the great host of saints and angels who surround the scene, and for the ability of children to charade as pirates while warming your heart.

Five Reasons to Be Discerning about Halloween
There are reasons to be careful and discerning in regard to Halloween.

A Week to Consider Mystery

tree from below

This Friday is Halloween, and the weekend brings us the celebrations of All Saints and All Souls. On Wednesday, we will re-share material I’ve already written on Halloween. But for today and Friday, I’d like for us to consider mystery.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween—I was one of those children who scared easily and who did not enjoy being scared. But as an adult I appreciate that the concept of Halloween reminds us once a year of the mysterious intersections of souls. When we watch movies about haunted houses, we may or may not believe that ghosts exist, but we have to consider what’s behind the strange occurrences in this world, about what might be at work in locations that make us uncomfortable. And when surrounded by reminders of graveyards and witches and all manner of goblins, we might ponder why the human race is so drawn to these stories. We long to connect to loved ones who are no longer with us; as far as we know, they exist in a place that is mystery to us. And what else exists in all that mystery? Why have we always imagined monsters, angels, humans and animals with supernatural powers? Halloween may not provide any real information about such mysteries, but it certainly tells us a lot about ourselves.

We sense that some connection exists, even past death. Just about everybody has a story about some connection with a loved one who has died. It happens through dreams or sensations or odd coincidences or strong inclinations during prayer. Some of these “connections” can be explained away—it was my grief or simply the power of my own memory or imagination. Others are more difficult to dismiss and seem to come from that realm of mystery.

For the Christian, this is not so mysterious because we believe in the communion of saints. We believe that the soul is eternal and ultimately in God’s care. And the community of faith—the church—transcends boundaries of space and time. So we include in our prayers and conversations those who have passed through this mortal life. We believe that they are still present to us, though not in body. All of us—those alive and those dead—are held in the bonds of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We take evil seriously. As Christians we believe that there is intelligent evil in the universe, and it seeks the harm of all creation. I believe that all our horror stories point to our desire to see that evil conquered and its power eliminated. We want to live; evil wants us to die. We want to grow; evil wants us stuck and miserable. We want to forgive and live in harmony with others; evil wants war and strife and vengeance. In a way, our Halloween costumes and cartoons are forms of mocking evil. We believe that Jesus Christ has power over all other power and that the last word will be love. In the meantime, we are watchful of the many ways evil can take root in daily life—gossip, jealousy, greed, despair, and so on.

We suspect that locations carry something of the people and activities that have existed in them. There’s a reason certain places are called holy. Throughout recorded human history, we have recognized that some places invite Divine presence—and others fight it. We set aside and consecrate churches, temples, and various kinds of outdoor space so that we can pray there, sing there, meet others there for peace making and good works, for rituals that honor people and God. We also recognize that locations in which great wrong has been done do not feel as free and light and hopeful. This is especially true in places such as former concentration camps, battlefields, sites of mass murder—even homes in which children have been harmed.

We don’t know exactly how places carry spiritual qualities, but we know there are ways to clear the spaces in which we live and work. We do blessings of our homes; we pray over places that need healing. We fill those spaces with beauty and order and openness. We teach our children how to create their own beauty right in their bedrooms or backyards. We explain why it’s important to display symbols of hope and compassion, photos of those we love and events that are meaningful to us. We try to model discernment in the way we arrange space and choose what will be there.

I encourage you to allow Halloween to spark some meditation on the communion of saints, the realities of evil and grace, and the atmosphere you create right where you live.

  • What, if anything, do you enjoy about Halloween?
  • What, if anything, disturbs you about Halloween?
  • Do you have any spiritual practices that are especially helpful during this odd holiday?

The Two Poles of Discernment

From the outstanding collection of wisdom, An Ignatian Book of Days:

How does God call us to the right path? Usually this awareness comes through a process of discerning both the interior and the worldly poles of vocation. God’s Spirit works in the depths of our humanity to help us become aware of our gifts and aspirations, and the same Spirit works through our experience to point out what the world needs from us. Often the Spirit helps us notice those problems that our talents are uniquely suited to address. Grace connects these two poles like a spark that arcs between them.

—William Spohn, SJ, “The Chosen Path,” America magazine

Two Books to Inspire You throughout 2015

This year we are providing several options for daily reading, reflection, and meditation. Whether you’re a mom of young children or a retiree wanting to delve more into Ignatian wisdom, these books provide high-quality material in voices you will recognize.

Wholehearted Living: Five-Minute Reflections for Modern Moms by Jennifer Grant

Wholehearted Living: Five-Minute Reflections for Modern Moms

Wholehearted Living is a smart, accessible, and inspiring book for moms who don’t have much time, but long to connect deeply with their own selves, their families, friends, and with God. “Doing it all” and “having it all” have become barriers for women, barbed judgments for moms especially. At a time when it seems that moms should be everything to everyone—and failing at one implies failing at all!—Wholehearted Living cuts through the uncertainty and self-shame and confidently proclaims: You’re doing great, just as you are.

Designed to be a daily moment of peace and reflection, Wholehearted Living addresses the authentic concerns, fears, and joys that women experience as they strive against the imperfect “have it all” mentality. Every month presents its own practice relating to reflection, risk, or rest, and each page echoes the needs of modern moms. Wholehearted Living doesn’t try to change who you are; it helps you thrive where you are.

Author: Jennifer Grant is the author of three previous works of nonfiction: Love You More, MOMumental, and Disquiet Time. A former health and parenting columnist for the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times Media newspapers, Grant contributes to her.meneutics, Fullfill, and other publications. Grant graduated from Wheaton College (BA) and Southern Methodist University (MA), and lives with her husband and four children in the suburbs of Chicago. Find her online at jennifergrant.com.

An Ignatian Book of Days by Jim Manney

An Ignatian Book of Days

Filled with insights and reflections from favorite Ignatian leaders, An Ignatian Book of Days sees God as actively involved in the world and intimately involved with us in every moment and place. Ignatian spirituality is a way to pray, an approach to making decisions, a point of view about God, and a practical guide to everyday life. An Ignatian Book of Days is the only 365-daily reading book written explicitly from the point of view of Ignatian spirituality; it is an invitation to help attune ourselves to the Ignatian conviction that we can find God in all things, that our personal experience can provide authentic knowledge of God, and that we can clearly see, feel, and experience God’s presence through an Ignatian lens in our daily lives.

Accessible, inviting, richly rewarding, and filled with insights and reflections from favorite Ignatian leaders, including James Martin, SJ, Pedro Arrupe, SJ, Margaret Silf, and of course, St. Ignatius, An Ignatian Book of Days sees God as actively involved in the world and intimately involved with us in every moment and place.

Author: Jim Manney is a popular writer on Ignatian topics (What’s Your Decision?, A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer, God Finds Us) as well as the editor of many books on Ignatian spirituality, including What Is Ignatian Spirituality?

Other Fall books by Loyola Press: