I love trick or treating as much as the next parent, but I'm kind of cranky today. It seems kids have forgotten how to knock on doors and yell trick or treat. Or even say anything, for that matter. I open the door, and they just shake a bag in my direction and give me the "come on, hurry up, I've got more houses to rob" look on their faces. And forget about a thank you. Not that I give treats to get a thank you, but I especially love and appreciate the parents who insist their child say it, or stand at the door for what must seem like an eternity to the kid until they say it. You are teaching your child to appreciate that someone did you a kindness, and that is a huge life lesson.
I read an article recently (in Catholic Digest, October edition) about an old tradition from like Medieval England or something, when people used to celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day with all kinds of excitement. To enjoy the annual celebration of unity with their family members who had already passed from this earth was cause for a huge feast, and all kinds of Medieval merry-making. Fancy cakes were made, and I am sure there was music. (How can you properly celebrate ANYTHING without it?)
Anyways, the tradition was that in the midst of this merry-making, the poor of the area would go door to door asking for "soul cakes". From the article I gather that this would be some sort of bread or cookie that people would make to celebrate this occasion. Sounds a little like "trick-or-treat", right? But wait, there's more! The poor people would NOT just go door to door demanding their ration of "soul cakes". They would ask if they could offer a prayer for the family (and one could assume, the deceased members of that family that they were thinking of) in EXCHANGE for the soul cake. If the person behind the door said yes, the person requesting the soul cake would offer a prayer and receive their thanks in the form of this bread or cookie.
I was picturing this while reading the article. Knock knock on the door. "Who's there?" May I offer a prayer for your loved one in return for a soul cake?" Silence on my end. I am up to my ears in soul cakes, since I love to bake for fun occasions. "Sure, yes. We have plenty!" I would say. Then as this dear soul drops to his knees on my doorstep and talks to the God we both hold dear in our hearts, and asks for mercy, not for himself or HIS needs (even though they may be many) but for the peace of the souls of MY beloved people, I realize the value of what he has given. He has asked for peace for Vic, my father-in-law. He has asked our Creator to allow Kathryn (my mother-in-law) to be in paradise with her son, Little Vic, her husband, Vic, and the Lord Jesus, whom she loved more than anyone. There is no amount of soul cakes that can equal the gift this man has given to my family. I can see myself packing a whole bag of soul cakes, and maybe slipping a little ham in there, an apple or two, a juice box (if they existed), maybe a toothbrush, some soap...(Those of you who know me...well, you know how this works.) Then off he goes to bless the next home with his prayer, while I go for the tissues.
I love this story. I told this story to Sylvia and Simon and told them that this year we would start a new tradition. Ask God to bless each home as you walk away from the door (right after the THANK YOU!) You don't have to say it out loud, or drop to your knees, but just a quick, "Please Bless Them." No one even has to know you are doing it. YOU will know that you gave them something way WAY better than a full-size candy bar.
As you go through your kids' bag of "soul cakes" say a little prayer for the families who gave these gifts to your children. You will be blessing your neighborhood more than you know!
Happy All Saints Day and Happy All Souls Day, and may God bless the members of YOUR family who have already died, that they might be with him in paradise forever more.