Spirit Quest

On Hallowe'en, let us pause and celebrate the saintly

By The Reverend Doctor Hanns F. Skoutajan

The Reverend Doctor Hanns F. Skoutajan

Loud and repeated knocks on the door although we had am illuminated door bell, revealed a horde of creatures dressed in a variety of scary attire waiting impatiently under our porch light. But, now no more. Living in a condo, a controlled access building, certainly has its advantages but also a downside. One of the latter is manifested at Hallowe'en.

Before moving to Ottawa we lived in a small community. Each Hallowe'en our home was invaded by a large number of goblins and ghosts, as well as creatures from outer space and the world of sports and politics. We mostly enjoyed these nocturnal visitors especially the very young ones and had a supply of goodies on hand. Of course there were always some who were rude and grasping.

All Hallows or All Saints is a well known date in the Christian calendar, October 31 — tomorrow, that is.

Yet, "Trick or Treat" is unfamiliar outside of North America.

Only after coming to Canada at the age of 10 was I introduced to the practice of masquerading and visiting, soliciting sweets and goodies. I thought it a rather degrading custom; to my mind it was begging. I cringed as I accompanied my Canadian friend to the doorsteps of neighbours with a pillowcase to hold the loot. I have to admit that I soon became one of those evil spirits who concentrated on trick rather than treat. It seemed more honourable than mendicancy.

I recall one unhallowed night when I and a bunch of my friends dragged the scoreboard from the baseball field and erected it on the lawn of the pitcher of our local ball team. A few days earlier he had "bombed" on the mound and lost the deciding game. We wanted to remind him of the score.

Ours was a small community and the score board was nothing fancy. Our fallen hero dismantled it and used the wood to build shelves in his garage. Was this a win-win or lose-lose situation?

All Hallows is a religious festival to celebrate the "holy ones," the saints of earlier times. I learned, however, that saints were not only those who adorned churches, bridge piers and town squares, identifiable by the halo which they wear having been nominated by the church fathers. And yes, the powers were always fathers. In the early church "saints" were all the faithful, as St. Paul, himself a saint, addressed them in his epistles. Many suffered martyrdom for their beliefs.

The road to sainthood is a long process requiring proof not only of extraordinary good works but also of having performed the requisite number of miracles. The evidence is carefully examined and documented before the process of beautification, the first step before cannonization can take place. It usually takes years to complete. Sainthood is a jealously guarded honour.

Today a saint is any person who by deed and example has lived a noble and selfless life. Haven't we all heard it remarked, " You know he's a real saint the way he looks after his aging parents." Today we tend not to "hallow" people in a special way instead we may confer on them such honours as the Order of Canada, any of the variety of Nobel prizes and medals and include them in some Hall of Fame. Only occasionally do we make statues of our heros such as the five women on the east side of Parliament Hill.

I would suggest that we initiate a movement to declare a day such as Hallowe'en on which we pause and remember the unsung of our time. Let us pause and celebrate the saintly, make it a time when the media calls attention to those who in the spirit of love have given of themselves. These would be people whose names are not already attached to some road, square, avenue, building, bridge, airport, highway or sports venue.

I am a faithful reader of the Lives Lived column in the Globe and Mail, and have myself contributed to that daily essay. It is about people who have lived ordinary lives, whose contributions are often very personal and hardly known to the public. Perhaps only God knows the full list of saints.

Saints abound, but more important than lauding their names is encouraging action, participation in movements that hallow life even in small ways.

Let us make Hallowe'en meaningful with more than a contribution to the dental profession, but to those who have contributed to peace, justice and the integrity of creation, who have loved wastefully and lived creatively. We may be surprised whose name might appear on that roster.

October 30, 2009 — Return to cover.