Our town always designates the Sunday nearest Halloween for trick-or-treating. So it happened that last Sunday, I rushed home after the 12:15 Mass to prepare for the multitude of trick-or-treaters who would soon greet me at my door. I arrived just in time to reward the first of them with candy. As the afternoon wore on, I gave up the possibility of getting anything done and retreated to my favorite easy chair between trips to the door. In the midst of one such reprieve, my thoughts turned to Halloween Past. I wondered if any of today’s children take this particular day as seriously as I did so long ago…
I can still recall Eddie’s beaming face the year Sister Mary Carmelice determined that ours would be the best Eve of All Hallows Party in the school. Sister took the public’s lack of attention to All Saints Day personally, and she decided to do something about it. She knew that we all need heroes to imitate and that the pool of saints provides the perfect place to find one. When Sister announced her plans for a truly “heavenly feast” made up of all the goodies we could convince our mothers -or dads- to supply, she convinced us that saintly costumes were a small price to pay for all of the fun and food we would enjoy. Sister’s sweet tooth and her love of parties ran a very close second to our own. I think my classmates and I spent far less time on our costumes than we did begging our parents to provide goodies for our classroom feast.
When Halloween arrived, our class boasted the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Patrick, and a variety of apostles and other popular patrons. Sister’s face glowed until my friend Eddie arrived. I could not believe that he had forgotten to dress as a saint. Sister had been very clear for the past three weeks regarding just how special the saints are. In spite of her effort, Eddie wore a crisp white shirt and a tie, both of which lost themselves under a very large suit coat. Eddie’s eyes hid under a handsome hat that must have belonged to his dad. From the frown on Sister’s face, I knew Eddie was in big trouble.
Sister took Eddie into the hall for a little talk. Though is seemed an hour to me, a few minutes later, a smile had replaced Sister’s frown when she and Eddie returned. Sister called us all together because she wanted to share some very big news. Eddie sported a huge grin as Sister announced to the class that Eddie deserved an “A” in catechism on his next report card. Our wide-eyed amazement must have amused her as Sister went on to explain that Eddie’s costume represented his very clear understanding of sainthood.
Eddie explained that his mother often observed that his dad had to be a saint. After all, he put up with Eddie and all of his sisters and brothers. He went to work every day to make enough money to feed and clothe them. As tired as he was when he came home each night, Eddie’s dad always helped Eddie’s mom with dinner. After dinner, Eddie’s dad patiently assisted with homework, and he always asked how things had gone that day. When his dad helped at bedtime, Eddie reported that his mother often said, “Honey, you’re a saint.” Being the good boy that he was, Eddie listened to his mother. Though his status was still “saint-in-the-making,” the saint Eddie chose to portray was his dad.
As I share this memory, it occurs to me that the children among us are as astute as Eddie in recognizing goodness. Though they may not label the adults around them as saints, they determine who is and who is not a good example with uncanny precision. Eddie’s and our own children’s observations relate closely to the scriptures.
In Deuteronomy (6:2-6), Moses calls the people to “Fear the Lord, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life.” Moses realizes that God’s laws provide the basis for lasting relationships. God seeks friendship with each one of us, and God rejoices in the potential for lasting friendships among us.
Hebrews (7:23-28) reminds us that Jesus is always at our sides. Jesus continues to work to maintain a relationship between God and his people. How often Eddie’s father and we parents turn to Jesus for the strength to persist in loving our families well!
In the gospel (Mark 12:28-34), Jesus teaches the greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Eddie’s dad kept those rules through a very ordinary life lived with love. Today, the scriptures invite you and me to do the same.
©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved