Yes, Halloween. Or, as I used to jokingly say as a stupid Baptist kid from Graefenburg, KY, “Hallowed be thy Ween”. Little did I know just how right I was. It wasn’t until becoming Catholic in my 30s that I realized that there really was something to my goofy mockery and blasphemy. Who knew? I just thought I was being irreverent and funny, certainly not liturgically accurate. But that’s what’s so cool about being Catholic. Kinda like Mick Jagger sings in Beast of Burden, “All your sickness I can suck it up, throw it all at me I’ll just shrug it off”. That’s kinda how the Church works, as I’ve discovered. I could be as dumb as I wanted to be and it didn't matter. That's comforting, right?
What I figured out by the time I was 30ish is this Halloween thing is actually a feast day in the Catholic Church. Wow! Mind blown. Beer and Halloween? What!? I knew I’d found the place for me. As it turns out we celebrate the Feast of All Saints on November 1st across the globe as Catholics. And, it’s a real-deal feast day meaning we make it obligatory. That doesn’t mean we’re forced, or anything, but we oblige ourselves to the celebration out of reverence for how awesome it is. Again, all of this was totally new to this Baptist boy, but intriguing and exciting.
As I got more accustomed to the understandings of how this All Saints thing worked it became very clear that we are celebrating an batch of unnamed saints all of whom lived lives of heroic virtue, or as one of my favorite business gurus, Gary Vaynerchuk, says, they all had the business model of “giving a damn”. Because it’s only those who are driven who find themselves with the opportunity to express virtue so great that it’s heroic. Sure, prayer, mass, confession, sacraments, all important. But, you could have all of that and still not get remotely close to what saint-making heroic virtue looks like.
One of my favorite saints of all time is St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis gets the lame classification as being the animal loving, pet blessing, saint. Which, I guess, is all well and good, but what made him heroic is his radical departure from the norm. Even his bishop and local church disowned him. He was also rejected by his family for being such a black sheep. Why? Because he dared to squander the family’s business on the poor. He disobediently took the fabrics that his family’s business made and tried to give it to people who needed clothes. His dad did what the bible says and brought his son to the bishop to decide what needed to be done and there, in front of God and everybody, Francis stripped off the garments that were so important to his textile business owning dad and went on his way to figure out what God was calling him to do.
I think we all need that crossroads in our lives. I think it’s way too easy to play too safe. I think we have a tendency to try to do all the right things and never really get to the point of discovering our one right thing. We all have that, you know? That one right thing. There is something that we are uniquely created to do. And for a saint to be declared a saint, or even begin the path to canonization, one must be recognized for heroic virtue. We might be missing our chance at doing what Francis did because instead of taking the heroic path we take the expected path. Or the path that we think we’re supposed to take because that’s what “good Christians” do, or something. How crazy is that? Especially if all the while we have something welling up inside of us that’s about to explode and we can’t seem to figure out why. Maybe that, like Francis running from his family and his local church, is what some of us need to do.
I just watched an interesting timeline video that was complied from cell phone, surveillance and body cam video from the scene of the Las Vegas shooting. I’ve talked about Paddock, the Vegas shooter, in other blogs about other issues, but I look at a guy who was willing to take such huge risks for absolutely nothing. I mean, he’ll go down in infamy, but that’s all. But the guts it takes to pull off something like that if it was channeled to the good, to the beautiful, to the charitable, what amazing fruit could be born of that. Instead we see this energy totally misspent and backfiring. But what if backfiring might be what you’re experiencing, but it’s just not as dramatic as what we saw in Las Vegas? You don’t have to get things so massively wrong to be off track. You just might not be realizing what it is you’ve got inside you.
We go through a lot of motions. We do the things that we think are the things we’re supposed to do and then we don’t find ourselves fulfilled. We wonder why we’re listless and lost. We think we’ve done everything exactly according to the recipe. This can be in our faith, in our personal lives, on our jobs, you name it, it’s irrelevant where it happens. What matters is that you’re recognizing this as something that is happening. If when it’s happening we can begin to listen a little more closely to our hearts and try to find what it is we’re created to do, then we might start seeing some affirming, and confirming, signs that we’re starting down the right path. And then, if that path starts getting all kinds of fruitful, even amid the weeds, then we just might have found our true calling.
As crazy as it sounds I think Halloween can be that turning point. Often we look for a hinge in our personal development. Many of us look forward to the first of a new year to make the changes we’ve been waiting to make. And then sometimes all we need to see is someone else taking the lead with spirited enthusiasm to show us the way. This is what the Feast of All Saints is about. It’s a calendar date, it’s sort of a beginning of a new season, and we definitely have leaders to look to. Granted they’re leaders from the past, but you can always find inspiration from history from those who’ve made their mark. That’s exactly what we have with this holiday.
I really want to inspire you. I want to encourage you to find motivation in the least likely of places. I mean, who else is looking at Halloween for a new beginning? Many of us see it as the unofficial start to the craziness of Christmas and then we’re spiraled into maddening vortex of the end of the year. We think our best hope, if any, is to wait until the dust settles after all of that and then maybe we can get our act together by spring of next year. But here’s the thing. Game changers don’t wait. Those who make the rules don’t care about the rules. Those who see what needs to be done and respond accordingly really don’t care what time of the year it is.
Why not try this, this year? Look to the heroes, the mountain-movers, the against-all-odders, and see them for what they really can be. These are the peeps that some piously pray to for comfort. But that’s never been how I’ve seen them. These are the guys who make me uncomfortable. They shake my comfort and get me motivated to try to change the world in the same ways they did, but in the way I’m uniquely designed to do so. Find your own tricks and treats to get you to the next level and, whatever you do, put your belief into action.