Before we moved into this house several years ago, the former owner warned us that there would be a lot of trick-or-treaters. In fact, “a lot” turned out to be an understatement, since the first year we counted almost two hundred. As the evening wore on we were scrambling about the pantry. searching for any forgotten stores of candy. Finally, at 9:00, we simply abandoned ship, turned out the lights, and retreated upstairs.
The trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood range from bored babies whose young parents are the ones enthusiastic about Halloween, to expensively costumed children with specially designed trick-or-treat bags, to poor children with makeshift costumes and plastic grocery bags. Some have never seen a convent, and when we open the door, revealing a wooden Cenacle cross and the statue of our co-founder, Saint Therese Couderc, their eyes widen and they say with awe and simple courtesy, “I like your house!”
Somewhere around 8:00 , the teenagers begin to arrive. Year before last, they were mostly un-costumed and armed with a vaguely threatening air and gaping school backpacks as candy receptacles. This past year, however, brought a shift. The teenagers no longer seemed world-weary or menacing. They were dressed as butterflies and angels and other unidentifiable but innocent-looking creatures and seemed to be saying from their six-foot height, “We’re children, too!” They were delighting in the evening, and we delighted in their delight.
How many of them know, I wonder, that Halloween is the Eve of All Saints’ Day, their feast day, the feast of all God’s holy people, recognized and unrecognized? Of course, some of us seem to have a harder time with sanctity than others do, but the communion of saints links us all in companionship through the love of God. As the hymn puts it:
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
William W. How, “For All the Saints”
We are a motley crew, to be sure, but we who are still feebly struggling are just as beloved of God as those who are shining in glory. In a sense it is true that we all shine, even in the midst of the struggle. Thus the children with painted faces and sparkly or scary outfits, the teenagers still radiant with childhood or slouching to the door with their backpacks — all receive their treats and head back to the street, to borrow Wordsworth’s expression, “trailing clouds of glory.”
Sing praises to the Lord,
O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
(Psalms 30:4 RSV)