Going Minimalist on All Saints' Day: Thriving in Survival Mode

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It is All Souls' Day (the day after All Saints' Day) and I am sitting in a pile of candy wrappers in a state of sugar-driven anxiety. I’ve got fabric and costumes strewn about my house, making it look a little like Spider Man got in a brawl with St. Francis over a Snickers... and nobody won. Everybody lost...

Because in the final stroke of irritation and "I didn't strangle you when you were whistling through your teeth during Mass but don't tempt me now" kind of brain fever...I sent them all to bed. Candy isn't allowed in their rooms but I saw them sneak a couple pieces and I just don't care because they left enough peanut butter cups behind to keep me company during my couch coma. 

It is the Catholic Mom Marathon week when we try to be salt and light to the world by dressing up in fun costumes and taking candy from neighbors... followed by a day when we throw a bunch of neutral colored fabric on our children and make them give mini school-ish reports about holy people... culminating in a day when we scrap the energy to do meaningful activities to remember and pray for the dead. 

 Being a low energy mom puts me in dead last place on the Pinterest winner board. I try. But I've got to consolidate for the sake of my children, my sanity, and my sanctity.

So I'm a liturgical minimalist and the details of this rich liturgical week (All Hallows Eve, All Saints, All Souls) necessarily go to chopping block every year for deep discernment.

"Okay kids, today is a very meaningful feast day and I want you to grow up immersed in love, peace, and special cakes that look like holy things. So we are going to pray a special prayer. It's called Bedtime Prayer. And we pray it every night so you should know it really well by now. So just fold your hands in an extra devout way and do not (under pain of death or banishment) look cross-eyed at your brother. Happy feast day."

I am often that mom but do try to rise above it periodically. So out of necessity and simplicity, Halloween gets the boot. On Halloween, I am usually making costumes for All Saints' Day and we try to go to the vigil Mass while everyone else is trick-or-treating. Please don't feel badly for my kids... they have a wonderful time and Saints get candy, too. 

The reality is that I can really only do one big thing well in the span of 3 days and even that is stretching it. So All Saints' it is! I have other reasons for not celebrating Halloween but I freely admit that those preferences are heavily supported by the simple need to stay sane.

Those of you who can do two sets of costumes, two parties, and two loads of goodies, all while prioritizing the most important things... Hey, more power to you. I'm truly not that mom. 

As I said, I can do one thing well at a time (generally) and so I choose the feast day. It does help that we are homeschooling since the All Saints' party doesn't fall under the umbrella of the Catholic school day. I don't really want it to be a school-ish thing. I want it to be alive and dynamic and a distinct from obligation or homework. It should be more than a date on the calendar and more than a set of costumes, props, and book reports. 

And if it isn't more than that, then it should at least be the only thing vying for attention. Meaning that the fun of a secular Halloween should never eclipse the fire of the feast. We do a disservice to the entire Church when we put more of our creative energies into a community activity than to the liturgical calendar.

I'm not shaming anyone. I fully admit that I'm a harried mom and that I am positively in awe of you moms who just keep going and making and driving and creating.

But every year when I look from my sofa vantage point at the disaster that All Saints' Day feasting and costuming have left in their wake, I am glad we did it, glad it is over, and looking forward to the next day when we can settle into prayerful devotion for the dead. Which is admittedly more difficult when everyone is hopped up on candy and the house is a mess... but I digress.

I'm really a liturgical minimalist. But that doesn't mean that I do nothing (although sometimes I suppose it does, strictly speaking). What it means for All Saints' Day specifically is that I only do what is necessary... and I try to do it well. 

  • Mass with the family and faith community is prioritized.

  • Costumes depicting our heavenly family members are prioritized.

  • Discussion about the saints is prioritized.

  • A little bit of feasting (is that an oxymoron?) is prioritized.

But now All Saints' Day is over. It's 8:30pm and I see a 7-year old in an Ironman costume eating candy in front of me. The irony makes me laugh out loud. He is clueless but blissfully happy… completely content to be alive eating junk food in a costume. 

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