November 10, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

When we look at the Liturgical year, October is the month of the Rosary and of our Lady. November is the month that we look at both the Saints and of the Dead.

    Originally All Saints’ Day was in May. Like many holidays, the Church would take a pagan holiday and Christianize it. Why May? Because it coincided with a Pagan Holiday, which the Church could not get rid of, so they Christianized it for the Faithful.

    This pagan holiday was the Roman Lemuralia, which was celebrated in May. The Lemures were spirits of the dead who returned for only three particular days a year to threaten their descendants. They were restless, malevolent ghosts whose purpose was to torture the families they left behind. In order to propitiate them, a ritual was enacted by the head of the family household. At midnight, the family leader would walk barefoot through his own house to rid the lemures with this exorcism ritual: holding his hand upheld in what is referred to as a fig gesture (placing the thumb between the 2nd and 3rd fingers) and filling his mouth with dried black beans, he would make the circuit around his house spitting the beans onto the floor in order to bait the lemures. As he walked and spit out a bean, he would recite nine times the incantation “with these I redeem myself and mine” [cum hīs redimō ipsum atque familiam meam].

    When the lemures came out to eat the beans, the rest of the household – following along but forbidden to look behind them – would clash bronze together, like cymbals, and proclaim “ghosts of my fathers and ancestors be gone!” [manes paternī exite!]

    Over time when this practice was basically forgotten, the Church moved the holiday to October to combat the Pagan Celtic Samhain.

    Whatever the reason, All Saints Day is not a day to focus on the dead and the mischief that they can cause. For Christians it is what the Dead can do to foster Faith. Instead of being a hinderance to life, the Saints help foster how God works in our lives. They pray for us. We await their coming in Glory with the Lord. They give us hope for a better life, rather than dreading past actions.

Please note: Most of this article came from


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