Father Steve Grunow went to see the new James Bond film "Skyfall" this weekend. No spoiler alerts just yet, but he offers some very interesting Catholic food for thought for your pre-cinema reflection...
The new James Bond flick opened this weekend to rave reviews and a champion box office. “Skyfall” is the third outing for Daniel Craig, who presents Her Majesty’s most renowned secret agent as a coiled spring of muscle and menace that we can all be grateful is on the side of right and is defending the interests of the free world against those who would upset the balance of power through intrigue and sabotage.
The film is fresh right now and I don’t want to offer too much in the way of spoilers, but as the plot twists and turns to a literally explosive conclusion we learn something about James Bond’s family that Catholics might find interesting.
On this All Hallows Eve's Eve (that's right), we're putting our Fun-Size Snickers down long enough to learn something pretty profound about Halloween — that it has deep roots in Catholicism. We fired some questions at the walking encyclopedia that is Father Steve Grunow, and this is what he fired back: Everything you ever wanted to know about Catholicism and Halloween, and more.
I always figured that Halloween had pagan roots, but you are telling me they are Catholic. Huh? How so?
The origin and traditional customs associated with Halloween require no other explanation than that they are examples of the kinds of festivity that served as a means of celebrating the various holy days of the Catholic Liturgical Year. This includes everything from masquerades, feasting, and the associations of a given day of the year with supernatural or spiritual truths.
I would draw a distinction between the violent, macabre imagery that characterizes the modern appropriation of Halloween as a kind of secular celebration and the more traditional customs that are characteristic of a Catholic cultural ethos. The descent of Halloween into the madness of an annual fright fest is a relatively recent development, but the true substance of Halloween belongs to the Church. Halloween (or “All Hallows Eve”) is the festive precursor to the celebration of the Church’s public commemoration of All Saints Day.
There has been an appropriation of the festivities of Halloween by modern pagans, but please understand that modern paganism is precisely modern and should be distinguished from the cults of ancient religions. The origins and practices of the modern paganism do not extend farther back than the late nineteenth century. Also, remember, the term “pagan” is a slippery one. What does it mean? The worship of the gods and goddesses from long ago? Those cults have long since passed away with the cultural matrix that once supported the world views that were the conditions for their possibility. You can’t just re-invent those cults without the culture that supported them...
How can the Church know what to do if the people of God forget who they are? Today, Father Steve Grunow offers his homily inspired by the scripture for today’s Mass from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy.
There is an interesting correlation that occurs throughout the scriptures between knowing and doing. The Bible is impatient with thoughtless activism or abstract idealism. Instead, what is proposed is that once one knows who they are, then they know what it is precisely that they are supposed to do.
Therefore throughout the scriptures there are repeated reminders to Israel concerning who they are—you are the Lord’s people. The Lord has chosen you. The Lord has set you apart. You are the Lord’s beloved. Once you were no people and now you are God’s people…
These reminders about who Israel is are most often accompanied by the invitation to Israel to do something about the fact, the truth, of their identity. Knowing who they are means they also know what they are to do.
Today’s first scripture from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy demonstrates this correlation very well. Moses tells the people who they are, and indicates that relationship of that identity to the Law that God gives to his people—and then he makes it clear, knowing who you are you will know what to do.