It’s another long weekend because of the celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. We, Catholics, commemorate and honor all the saints, both known (recognized by the Church) and unknown (those who are already in heaven but were not canonized by the Church) on November 1. On November 2, we honor the memory of our faithful departed. Here in the Philippines, it has been the custom of most families to go to the cemetery and visit the remains of their departed relatives on November 1 instead of November 2 probably because most of us believe that our departed relatives are now in heaven with God together with all the saints in heaven.
Celebrating Halloween or All Hallows Evening, which is the day before All Saints’ Day, has become very popular also. It is sad however that the way by which many modern day Catholics or Christians celebrate it today tend to distort the real purpose and meaning of this Holy Day. Donning costumes of ghosts, monsters, the devil, cartoon characters, superheroes, etc. has become popular and widespread. This makes me wonder every time Halloween approaches if we really understand why we celebrate the occasion. This day was reserved to honor holy men and women who have triumphantly overcome their sinfulness and have given us inspiration because of the lives they lived. Why dress up children as enemies of God when they can be dressed up as friends of God just like our beloved Saints? Why choose characters from a movie which are make believe anyway when there are real heroes that our children can emulate? There is such a great cloud of witnesses that has gone ahead of us whose lives have set many hearts ablaze by the example that they gave. I have nothing against costume parties done to celebrate Halloween. I like costume parties actually. But I believe that these costume parties should help us remember the real reasons for the celebration – the saints. A Halloween party organized without honouring the saints in mind is like organizing an awards night wherein the awardees were not invited. It’s like having a Christmas party without Christ in mind. If I am to organize a Halloween party for kids, I would ask the kids to dress up like the Saints they like or in the profession for which their favourite Saint was known for or a patron of. You may click on the following links to get more ideas: http://www.catholichomeandgarden.com/Catholic_Children's_Costumes.htm and http://www.stjoscap.org/images/COSTUMEIDEAS.pdf. In this way, kids are taught to value their faith and look up to the Saints as role models.
It’s so easy to simply join the bandwagon since almost everyone is doing it. Many people find it harmless. As for me and my husband, we don’t find it in our hearts to participate in a Halloween celebration where we do not see the real purpose of the Holy Day being upheld. Romans 12:2 serves as our guide: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
It was with these thoughts that I chose to come up with a new and meaningful family tradition for our growing family. Traditions are manifestations of the values of the families that practice them. I want our family traditions to communicate to our son that we are a Catholic Filipino family and that we uphold our rich heritage both as Catholics and Filipinos. I want our son to grow up practicing meaningful traditions. That’s why I thought of introducing one to two Saints every year on All Saints’ Day to our son, Yanthy. He’s already two years old this year and I think he’s old enough to be introduced to the heroes of our faith. I brought up the suggestion to my husband and he said that he had the same thing in mind. I’m not surprised I married this man! So, excitedly we went about preparing for our story telling session with our son. We searched for books, videos and possible props. We ended up buying a dvd on the life of St. Paul the Apostle. Back home, I reviewed the life story of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and thought of ways to share it with Yanthy.
All Saints’ Day morning came and we began our new family tradition by telling Yanthy what Saints are and that we will be introducing at least one Saint to him each year. We watched the video on the conversion of St. Paul and his ministry together with Yanthy. It was our first time to watch the video. That was a mistake. We should have viewed it first without him. It was too late when we realized that it was not suited for very young children like Yanthy. The material was quite heavy and there were violent scenes like the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen, and that of St, Paul among others. Yanthy didn’t like the video. Lesson learned: screen videos first before showing them to your child even if it is a Christian video. That way, parents like us would know if it is age appropriate. Another lesson that we learned is that story telling with props is a better alternative. With those lessons learned, I introduced St. Therese of the Child Jesus to Yanthy after attending Holy Mass and dinner.
I didn’t use a video or a book. I only used pictures of St. Therese from the internet and everyday things that Yanthy is familiar with. Then, I chose to tell some parts of St. Therese’s life which I think Yanthy could relate to. For example, I told him that St. Therese is also called the Little Flower and I likened her to our orchid which Yanthy and I water every morning. I told him that in the same way that our flower makes me happy every time I see it, St. Therese makes God happy because she is beautiful in God’s eyes. I also told him about St. Therese’s love for the child Jesus. I used his ball this time to relate St. Therese analogy about her relationship to the child Jesus. Yanthy responded much better with our story telling session as compared to the video. I used that opportunity to retell St. Paul’s story using the old fashioned way. I told him that St. Paul rode a big boat and that there were times that his big boat encountered storms at sea and there were lightning and thunder accompanying the storm. But these did not stop him from going to many places to tell people about Jesus. I told him that St. Paul loved Jesus very much that he kept telling people the story of Jesus wherever he went. I was very happy with Yanthy’s response. At the end of our story telling session, Yanthy asked me to kneel down with him and we prayed that we would be good like the Saints and be close friends of Jesus like St. Paul and St. Therese.
Looking back, I realized that I benefitted more from the activity. I have read the life story of St. Therese countless times since I was young girl but I still had new insights yesterday when I reviewed it. It could be because my insights now are related to my new role as a wife and mother. Let me share some of them. First, St. Therese’s Little Way inspired me to do my routine duties as a wife and mother daily with great love not only for my husband and son but more importantly for Jesus. Her example inspired and encouraged me to persevere in doing household chores with joy in my heart even when they are difficult. Once more, she taught me to offer my inconveniences and sacrifices for the purification of my soul and for the conversion of more people. Second, reviewing her story reminded me of the power of prayer to bring hearts and souls to Jesus. I thought of how my fervent prayers for my son would bring him close to the heart of God and I was greatly encouraged to faithfully intercede for my son and for others. Another thing that I found striking in reading St. Therese’s life story is finding out that she had tantrums when she was a little girl and that she was very stubborn. It was cited in her biography that there were instances when she would roll on the floor and cry unceasingly when she didn’t get what she want. I was surprised and at the same time relieved because my little boy is going through the terrible two’s stage. Like St. Therese, he can be very stubborn and throw tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. It was comforting for me to know that although she was once like that, she was able to overcome her temperament eventually. She even became a saint! I shared these insights with my husband and he said that we need to pray not only to St. Therese but also to the parents of St. Therese so that we would be wise parents like them who raised holy children like St. Therese.
I thank God for inspiring me and my husband to start this family tradition. I’m excited to discover new things about the Saints and to learn from their example. I pray that as we carry out this tradition in our family we would grow in our love for God and in Christian character so that one day we would also be triumphant like the saints. Let me close this sharing by quoting Philippians 4:8 (NKJV). “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy––meditate on these things.”