Hallowe’en is only a week away already! We are used to thinking of Halloween as a day to have parties, celebrate by trick-or-treating, and gorge on candy. Truthfully, in the tradition of the church, October 31 is really a fasting day in preparation for the great feasts that follow the next two days. (That’s where we get the name: Hallowe’en = All Hallows’ Eve, the “Hallows” being the saints of course!)
I think I’ve just earned myself the “Killjoy-of-the-Year Award.” But it’s true! One of the great feasts of the year, All Saints’ Day, falls on November 1. The day after, November 2, is the Feast of All Souls. To prepare our hearts and souls well for a great feast, we must spend the vigil praying and fasting.
“Fasting?!?! Ugh!!! This isn’t Lent!” I can hear someone saying. Well, that is true but–fasting is one of the greatest tools God has given us to advance in virtue and strengthen our spiritual lives. By fasting in the vigil before a feast–in whatever way is appropriate for each family member–we prepare our hearts to celebrate better the next day. Younger children could observe the vigil by giving up dessert after dinner that night, saving their sweets until the feast day. Older children and adults could eat smaller meal portions of their meals. Remember, fasting can mean many different things–abstaining from something good that you like, such as the internet or TV–is a way of fasting. The emptiness we feel when giving something up creates a stillness and silence in our hearts that allows more room for God’s presence and allows us to hear Him better.
Try it. Whatever type of fasting makes sense for you and your family, accompany it with prayers that God may prepare your souls to enter into the joy of these feasts. As the Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote, “First the famine, then the feast.” The richness of the joy you will experience the next day foreshadows the joy of Heaven after our struggle in this life on earth.