A (Pre-55) All Hallows Eve Devotional Booklet from Ancilla Press

It sometimes comes as a surprise to Catholics -- especially (if not also ironically) of those who tend to be of a more traditional bent -- that what we call "Halloween" was an official liturgical vigil of the Church. As such, it has had its own proper Office and Mass for centuries until it was abolished in 1955 along with so many other vigils and octaves.

Of course a number of other customs and devotions grew up around it. These are still even recognizable in our secularized modern version of Halloween where we still go out and beg for treats -- except without praying for the dead of the households we visit (as was the practice in "Merrie Olde England.")

I had, for some months, been doing intense research in this area and that work was poured into a little devotional volume that Ancilla Press published in 2009 called "All Hallows Eve Prayers and Devotions" as well as an article featured here on LAJ on what the day of Halloween looked like liturgically and devotionally. I was not, I think, exactly prepared for the overwhelming response to either.

Inadvertently exposing the hunger amongst Catholics to reclaim this holiday was, to me, a clear indication that this very popular vigil should never have been suppressed in 1955. Unfortunately, unlike many other aspects of suppressed tradition, it remains suppressed to this day -- as most of the traditionally-minded individuals and communities are using the 1962 books in which it does not appear.

Nonetheless, I believe that the true "Hallowe'en" will reappear once more on our altars after it is revived in our homes first. How can we do that? How can a few shattered pieces of the sacred liturgy and folklore compete with the commercialized observance of the same? Well I for one am hoping that this little devotional booklet could serve as a start. 

In one sense it is a re-grounding in sacred tradition -- liturgical observances like the Office and the Mass and extra-liturgical practices like the recitation of Black Vespers for the deceased. It is also a re-grounding in folk practices like "souling" and praying for the dead. In another sense it can be a springboard into new devotions -- or at least new applications of old devotions. The distortions of the modern holiday gives us a perfect opportunity to offer prayers against the activity of demons even if these were not traditionally associated with October 31st: St. Patrick's Breastplate and the St. Michael prayer; and if the Chaplet for the Souls in Purgatory was not specifically written for the purpose of Halloween souling, it nevertheless makes a perfect way to - - as we were always meant to do -- return the favor of Halloween treats with prayers for the deceased of each household the children visit. 

We hear much nowadays of the organic development of the liturgy and what can we mean by that except that practices can well-up spontaneously within the hearts of the faithful and eventually prove so useful, so salutary, so right, that they are incorporated into the Church's official books?

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All Hallows Eve Prayers and Devotions 

26 pages ~ $3.00 


Traditional Mass propers for All Hallows Eve
Black Vespers (Vespers of the Dead)
Little Vespers of All Saints
St. Patrick's Breastplate
Long form of the St. Michael Prayer by Pope Leo XIII
A Deliverance Prayer
Prayer for Those for Whom We are Bound to Pray
Prayer for Those who Repose in a Cemetery
Chaplet for the Souls in Purgatory, adapted for Halloween Souling
Traditional Soul-Cake Recipe
Cheshire Souling Song (music and lyrics)
Another Souling Song (lyrics)

To order: Ancilla Press

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