Today, Oct. 31, is the day most children love and many parents hate…because the latter have to deal with youngsters flying high on all the sugar they ingest with those Halloween treats.
It’s also a night for scary movies and nightmares. But have we lost the real meaning of death and the dead? We tend to avoid the topic except around this time of year, when All Hallows Eve is followed by All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and a whole month dedicated to the holy souls. British Jesuit John McDade, writing for “Thinking Faith,” has some reflections on the reality of All Hallows Eve, death and Purgatory. You might find them very interesting and enlightening.
If you read Fr. McDade, you’ll also see his reference to cracks in the cosmos. We of Celtic background have another phrase to describe this phenomenon: thin places. It’s said that if you chance on one of these thin places, you can hear the voices of those who have gone to the next life. You don’t hear them only on All Hallows Eve and they are not out to get you. But they know you are there.
Let me tell you a story from my Irish cousin Michael, who was a very staid businessman with a lovely family when he told it to me. On our old family farm in the west of Ireland, there was a spa well (it had a mineral vein), which was said to be a thin place. When Michael was a teenager, he didn’t believe a word of this. However, he reasoned, fear of voices at the spa well might be a way to get close to a pretty girl. So he’d bring the girl to the well, tell her tales, scare her to death, and then put a protective arm around her. You can figure out the rest.
Well, our Michael had great success with this gambit until late one night, when he was coming home alone on his bicycle. There was no moon and the rain was pelting down in sheets. Just as he passed the deserted spa well, the chain on his bicycle broke and he went sprawling into the mud. As he untangled himself from the bike, wiped the mud from his face and tried to get to his feet, he heard gales of laughter.
For the rest of his life, Michael never again stopped at the spa well and whenever he drove past it, even in broad daylight, he floored the gas pedal.