From the Principal

This year, the Melbourne Cup was run on the first of November, and in Melbourne of course it is a public holiday; November 1st is also a very special day in the life of the Church – All Saints’ Day – and in many Catholic countries around the globe it too is a public holiday.

The Melbourne Cup weekend this year coincided with the three days known to Church tradition as Allhallowtide – the three days that incorporate October 31st (All Hallow’s Eve), November 1st (All Saints’ Day) and November 2nd (All Souls’ Day). The triduum that is Allhallowtide is a time traditionally set aside for people to remember those who have passed, all the faithful departed Christians, Saints and others. All Hallow’s Eve has been observed by Christians for more than a millennium, though the word now contracted to Halloween is usually associated today with trick or treat, pumpkins and ghoulish decorations. In the early days of observing All Hallow’s Eve, Christians believed that the link between this world and the next was at its ‘thinnest’ and in order not to be recognised by a departed soul (by a ghost) Christians would dress up and wear masks to disguise their identity.

The second day of the triduum of All Hallowtide, All Saints’ Day, is an important holy day – indeed it’s a day of holy obligation - a day where saints and martyrs, many of whom are unknown, are remembered and celebrated at Mass. Traditionally, this day was the principal feast day of the Church, and one of four holy days specifically recommended for baptism. It is interesting to note the many different customs which have accompanied this day: in countries as far apart as Argentina and Lebanon, Christians take flowers to the graves of loved ones and in France Christians place wreaths, especially of Chrysanthemums, at each tomb or grave; in countries as far apart as Sweden and Macedonia, candles are lit at gravesides; in countries as far apart as Portugal and Brazil, children go from door to door receiving gifts such as pomegranates and nuts.

The third day, November 2nd, is All Souls’ Day, a day traditionally where Catholics pray for the dead; in many Catholic countries this too is a public holiday. Perhaps the most famous celebrations – recently used in the opening scene of the James Bond movie, Spectre – is that held in Mexico, known as the Day of the Dead. At the festival, passed ancestors are remembered with sugar skulls, their favourite foods and drinks, and the marigold flower.

I trust that many of you enjoyed the Cup weekend with family and friends, perhaps entering into the fun that is Halloween and the excitement that is the Melbourne Cup. I wonder though how many of us took time to reflect upon the traditions and customs that have accompanied this time of the year – Allhallowstide – for more than a millennium. A basic trait of family is to feel connection and remembering and celebrating these important holy days allows that connection to grow stronger and reveals a link to our Christian ancestors that is still tangible. In a secular way, the Melbourne Cup tradition mimics those connections with the past. It is interesting to think that although we always have one eye on the future our thoughts and views have been shaped and defined by our past, and the more we know about that the richer will be our present.

Mary Farah, College Principal

All Souls' Day Prayer
Merciful Father,
hear our prayer and console us.
As we renew our faith in Your Son,
whom You raised from the dead,
strengthen our hope
that all our departed brothers and sisters
will share in His resurrection,
who lives and reigns
with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.