02 October 2009

Three Questions

Questions. . .

1). My 13 year old daughter has started wearing black clothes and other things that she says are "goth." Should I be worried?

Without knowing your family, I really can't say for certain that this is something to be worried about. My experience with adolescents is that more often than not The Black Phase is just that: a phase. Something that they will pass through like they did with Pokemon and a fascination with posters of their teen-idols. Almost by definition, teenagers are extraordinarily insecure. They will ally themselves with every goofy trend and fad that comes along. For the most part this tendency is just part of growing up, part of trying to shape an identity. The Black Phase may be just a way of saying, "Hey! Look at me!" It may be a way to tweak Mom and Dad. It could be a prelude to something more sinister. . .but not necessarily. Despite their surliness and rebellion, teens like limits. You can ignore the change. You could confront it directly. Or, you could do something really perverse: compliment your daughter on how wonderful she looks in black and suggest a darker shade of red lipstick. My guess: she'll drop the whole thing in favor of something less attention-seeking. What's the point of rebellion if the Powers That Be think it's cute?

2). I noticed a comment of yours on another blog about kneeling to receive Communion. It looks like you don't favor the practice. Why is that?

I am indifferent to the practice of kneeling to receive Communion. My point in that comment was simply to note that when you choose to kneel, you need to have it clear in your heart and mind why you are doing so. If you are kneeling in order to shame the rest of us into kneeling, then you need to stop it. Immediately. If you are kneeling to show true reverence, then go for it. Stand or kneel. Makes no difference to me. Just know that there is nothing magical about kneeling. It is entirely possible to receive irreverently while kneeling. Just as it is possible to receive reverently while standing. The bishops have asked us to receive standing, so that's the norm in the U.S. If you are going to behave "abnormally," then know why and make sure you are doing it for very good reasons.

3). Halloween is coming up. Should we allow our children to celebrate this pagan holiday?

Catholics have to be very careful about picking and choosing which holidays they will or won't celebrate based on which ones "used to be pagan." It was a common missionary practice in the early days of the Church mission in Europe for bishops and priests to adopt pagan holidays and Christianize them for evangelical purposes. Local pagan shrines were turned into shrines for saints and pagan holy days became Christian holidays. Halloween in pre-Christian Britain was the pagan New Year's Eve--All Hallow's Eve. November 1st was New Year's Day. The Church adopted these special days to honor all the saints and souls who have gone before us. You can celebrate Halloween anyway you like. Take time to talk to your children about deceased members of the family. If they are old enough, talk to them about death--and the resurrection to New Life! Trick or treating is harmless so long as you take proper precautions with the goodies later. If you are worried about the pagan elements of the holiday, just ignore them and focus on the Church's celebration of All Saints and All Souls. Some Christians get all bent out of shape about Halloween being a Satantic holiday. You can celebrate any day of the year as a Satantic holiday. There's nothing special, nothing magical about Oct 31st. Just have some fun.


  1. Fr. Augustine Thompson OP tells a different - and very interesting - story about Halloween. It's not "ye ancient celtic tradition" after all. Or mostly not. See http://to.ly/rJf

  2. my problem with Halloween has nothing to do with pagans. It seems to be a holiday that solely celebrates greed and gluttony. That's what bothers me.

    I have combatted this in my own way by dressing my kids up to sit on our porch and GIVE AWAY candy...and I have Sonshine give the candy to the "kids" so I don't have to get upset at all the pillowcases I see walking around being held by people who are darn old enough to go and buy whatever candy they want to eat....(I get even more aggravated when said pillowcase carrying grown ups have an infant in their arms all dressed up....like the baby's gonna eat all those snickers bars!!!)

    yes, I'm a mean old mommy!
    I also limit the kids to 1 gift a piece from Santa and 1 from Mom and Dad....and sometimes they get joint gifts too.....

    Bah Humbug.

  3. maryclare11:13 AM

    Dear Fr.P,
    I have a HUGE problem with halloween as it is currently 'celebrated'. It is confused with samhaim (can't spell it sorry) which is the pagan autumn equinox celebration and there are lots of wiccan and occult references both subtle and also very overt. The christian custom in the UK was to dress as one of the saints on 'All Hallows E'en' i.e. on the night before All Saints day in honour of a particular saint ... this has been subverted into dressing in witches, goblins, ghosts and all manner of evil spirit get up, and in the anti-christian and atheistic times in which we live is used as an opportunity to attack christianity and all that it stands for. It also encourages involvement in the occult (tarrot card readings, seances, ouija boards etc) often with very very young children, and lulls people into thinking that these are innocent fun things when they are anything but. I have a major problem with Harry Potter too in this respect... kids trying to do 'spells' a la Harry Potter and not realising just how dangerous it can be.
    Please can you encourage the custom of dressing in the saints costumes and teaching the children to tell people why they have done so, and what they are celebrating the following day. I think Mightymoms idea of giving the treats away instead of demanding them is an excellent idea. Perhaps the 'trick' bit could be that you would to say a prayer for the conversion of those who did not
    listen to the explanation.
    Perhaps you would care to comment.
    With regards maryclare :-)