Newsletter of the Member Schools of Marist Schools Australia


A newsletter for Member Schools of Marist Schools Australia published fortnightly during term time

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Dear Members of the Marist Family

Does it all feel to you rather American and somewhat alien – the carved-out pumpkins, the trick-or-treating, the medieval costumes, the scary teen movies?  What do make of the creep of Halloween frippery into our lives?

Perhaps it’s smart marketing, perhaps it’s the seep-out influence of Hollywood, or perhaps it’s our ritual-starved urbanised society trying to grab onto whatever it can to jolly us along through the year. Whatever the more immediate causes of its Australian inculturation, or its longer term origins in the mists of pagan Celtic festivals or Gaelic Christianity, it seems that Halloween is now one of the annual excuses for our young people to have some fun.  And from supermarkets to nightclubs, many seem to be ready to make a buck out of it.

So let us go with it. After all, it’s not a bad teaching point. It would be well that young people were able to join the dots between Halloween and the great the Christian feast of All Saints (‘All Hallows’) which it heralds. That young Halloweeners involve themselves in a bunch of fairly nonsensical activities which nonchalantly dance around deathly, dark and demonic themes, actually puts them on fairly solid theological ground.  The Feast of All Saints is all about Christ’s triumph over death, about the hope that is born of the promise of eternal life – the essence of our faith. It’s a night to be arrogant with the devil.

But it’s also a night to be humble before God, to be mindful of our mortality.  So many of the traditions of Halloween are sourced in medieval spirituality’s memento mori preoccupations.  The period of Halloween’s re-branding as a Christian event paralleled a large amount of death and mortality as subjects for art.  If you’re in Melbourne between now and January, you could treat yourself to the latest exhibition at the NGV: The Four Horsemen – Apocalypse, Death and Disaster.

It brings together the NGV’s collection of works on this general theme, particularly from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Fascinating stuff.

We know that young people – especially young men – often live and behave as if they are indestructible. Immortal. Part of that comes simply from their being young, testosterone charged, and with brains that haven’t finished connecting all their internal wiring.  But another part comes from the ways in which we insulate ourselves and our young from the confronting reality of death, and indeed from the fragility of life.  But of course, it is not only the young.  So often it is people in power, people with wealth and position and privilege, people puffed up with their own self-righteousness, who can have trouble with what really on offer for us.

Halloween didn’t get a mention during the Synod on the New Evangelisation which has just finished its deliberations in Rome.  If it did, I missed it. (Now, now, hush those cheap jibes about pointy hats and funny outfits!) But what we who live and work close to youth culture know, as effective evangelisers have known throughout the history of the Church, the Gospel can often be most effectively preached in and through existing cultural celebrations and mores.  I think, nonetheless, I’ll be leaving the pumpkins and the masks to others.


Brother Michael Green  fms

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