By BRENDA HOPF
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Following is a Halloween letter to my grandkids, ages ten and eleven, written in mostly simple terms. I invite you to share it with your children and grandchildren of all ages if you would like to do so.
The first part of the word Halloween, “hallow,” comes from an Old English word meaning “holy person” or “saint,” and the “een” portion of Halloween is a contraction of “evening,” which means the end of day or eve of All Hallows (Saints) Day.
What is All Saints Day and why celebrate that day at all? Simply put, all people who go to heaven are saints. There are only 365 days in a year, so not every person in heaven can have a separate day of remembrance. The Church created All Saints Day, Nov. 1, to remember or commemorate every last individual in heaven who cooperated with God’s grace while they lived on earth, and whose place in heaven after their death is known to God alone. This means our departed relatives and friends who lived the way Jesus taught us to live, or who “cooperated with God’s grace” while they were still living on earth, are now in heaven; and we remember them in a very special way on All Saints Day, alongside the more famous saints who have been named by the Church. All Saints Day is what we call a holy day of obligation, meaning Catholics observe it by going to Mass as they do on Sundays.
On the day after All Saints Day, Nov. 2, we celebrate All Souls Day. On this day we remember in a very special way all who have died but have not yet made it to heaven. The Catholic Church teaches that through our imperfect nature as human beings, we may need to go through a process of purification before we enter heaven to live with God forever. This place of purification is known as purgatory. This all comes back to that “cooperating with God’s grace” thing that I talked about; striving to do God’s will while we live on earth by loving all people the way God loves us, unconditionally. But sometimes we let our guard down and make mistakes that do not show love. No one knows exactly what it is like in purgatory or how long we might have to stay there before going to heaven, but we do know that all those in purgatory will one day go to heaven, and they need our prayers to help them get there.
All this brings us to another teaching of the Catholic Church – our belief in the communion of saints. The communion of saints includes all the saints in heaven, all those in purgatory on their way to heaven and all the faithful here on earth – which includes you and me. It should make you feel really good, kind of like a big “bear hug,” to know that the people in all three of these places are one big family capable of praying for and supporting one another at all times and in all places.
What does all this have to do with you? Well, bottom line, we are all called to become saints so we can enjoy life forever in heaven with God. We are taught that Jesus already purchased our ticket to heaven by dying on the cross for our sins; so why does all this really matter? We didn’t have to pay for our ticket. The ticket is in our hands. It matters because, just like a real paper ticket, we can lose our ticket to heaven if we turn away from God and live a life that does not show love to everyone.
Please remember, as you are growing up and growing in your faith, that the most important thing in life above all else is to become a saint and to help others become saints so we can all live forever with God in heaven. Nothing else matters.
I love you!
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.