As Halloween approaches, I think about candy and haunted houses, Trick or Treat and the color orange, spooky decorations, and the World Series. But perhaps I need to be reminded that Halloween originated as a celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, the day before we celebrate the hallowing (blessedness or holiness) of the saints.
The topic of holiness is one of my favorites in the Theology of the Body. The way I like to describe holiness in a TOB fashion is this: the union of one’s pure heart (well-formed conscience) and bodily action. For instance, I know I am to be patient in the grocery lines, and with my bodily actions, I am patient—that’s holiness! Or I know I should watch and cheer for my friend’s World Series team, and I do just that with my bodily actions—holiness! It’s true!
Of course, holiness is required of us in deeper, more sacrificial ways, but, nevertheless, the body matters regarding holiness. The hallowed saints knew this. St. John Paul knew this when he wrote that there should be no “… inner break or antithesis between what is spiritual [the heart] and what is sensible [the body]” (TOB 13:1).
When I teach this basic concept to junior high and high schoolers, holiness becomes in their imaginations reachable, not pie-in-the-sky. To do this, I use a foam board and butcher knife (yes, with safe environment approval!), and after drawing a person on the board, I’ll slowly cut the figure in half.
Before each incremental cut, I might say something like: “Johnny knows cheating is wrong; yet, with his body, he cheats [commence slicing]. He knows lying is wrong; yet, with his body, he lies [body splitting continues]. He knows disobeying his parents is wrong; yet, with his body, he disobeys [body dividing complete].”
This visual demonstration shows how sin “splits” our hearts and bodily actions. The youth then see how Johnny is “splitting” himself through sinful actions (with junior high kids so excited and amazed!).
Then, I show them the two pieces and say, “Sin doesn’t only hurt our relationship with God. Sin doesn’t only hurt our relationship with others. Sin hurts us.” So, I ask, “Does God leave us there, wounded and split? No, of course not. How can He fix us?” Funny children respond with “duct tape!” Yes, confession is duct tape. “Bless me, Father, I have sinned. I split myself, going against the truth with my body.”
One time a boy raised his hand and asked, “Miss, are you saying that I am ‘splitting’ myself all day long?” (He sure outed himself!) I said, “Well, are you sinning all day long?”
Do you see what the Theology of the Body does? It takes abstract ideas and concretizes them for us. What was abstract for that boy became personal and applicable. Have you ever thought about temptation as being a movement toward your human spirit and your human body “splitting”…as well as “splitting” from the Holy Spirit Who wants our happiness through our holiness?
Consider Jesus and Mary. They are sinless, ever hallowed. They always knew in their well-formed conscience what was right, and though tempted to do otherwise, they always kept their bodily actions in line with the truth in the heart.
Finally, having set the foundation, then we speak about holiness and sexuality for 8th graders.
So, as Halloween approaches and you see decapitated bodies among other gory things, you might think, “Oh, this helps me remember that I am made for happiness, wholeness, holiness, the opposite of these gory displays.” Let’s work on getting ready for our own All Hallow’s Day, body and spirit together, with all the saints in glory.
Written by TOBET President and Co-Founder, Monica Ashour, MTS; M Hum.