(The art above is by John Nava.) Halloween is a door to the more important feast, the Feast of All Saints. We learn that from its name: All Hallows Eve, or the vigil (the evening before) of the Feast of All Saints.
If Halloween is about rehearsal and remembrance, All Saints is a banquet table set with the fruit of rehearsal and remembrance. It is a day for children to glimpse the life for which they are rehearsing, a day for adults to remember the life to which they are called.
Invite some of the trick-or-treaters who came to your door in the darkness of Halloween to come to your table for an All Saints dinner. For if Halloween is a snack-sized candy bar and bubblegum, All Saints is homemade bread and roast chicken with potatoes, a feast that will, as my mother said, “stick to our ribs.”
You will find large, paper autumn leaves at craft and discount stores this season. Write one guest’s name on each leaf. Then write something about the saint for which each guest is named. For an Eva, you might write, “The mother of all the living.”
For a Stephen, you might write, “The first deacon and the first martyr.” If the guest has a name that is not a saint’s name, look for one that is close, like “James” for a “Jaden.” (Also inquire about middle names, or older children, confirmation names. Sometimes the saint’s name is tucked in there.) For flower names, look to scripture: “The Lily of the Valley,” or “The Rose of Sharon.”
It is a day for children to glimpse the life for which they are rehearsing, a day for adults to remember the life to which they are called.
Put a leaf on the plate of each guest, child and adult. Read the names aloud. Have stories ready to tell about each saint or attribute of God. Encourage questions. Recall the saints known to the whole church and remember the holy men and women known to our parishes and our families and neighborhoods. Talk about favorite saints and odd saints and funny saints and challenging saints.
Sing “For All the Saints” together. (Make copies so each guest has one.) Pray in thanksgiving for the men and women, so various, from every place and time, every race and tribe, who witness to the love of God with their lives and in their deaths. Asking the saints to pray for us reveals how saints can, and do, become companions on the way, sturdy friends and faithful helpers.
The Feast of All Saints invites us to sit at a table with those whose days of practice and rehearsal, of striving and seeking, are done. They are whole and healed, forever in the presence of the One who made and calls us all.
Don’t make the mistake of separating these days. Keep the link, and enjoy.
Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken with Vegetables (serves 6)
Preheat the oven to 425.
Grate the yellow part of the rind (not the white) of one lemon into a bowl.
Add to the zest: 1 Tb. olive oil, 1 Tb roughly chopped fresh thyme, 1 Tb. roughly chopped oregano, 2 tsps. roughly chopped rosemary, 3 minced garlic cloves, and ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Stir until well mixed.
Halve the lemon and place both halves inside the chicken cavity, along with 3 whole garlic cloves and one sprig each of thyme, oregano and rosemary.
Rub all but 2 tsps. of the lemon-herb mixture under the chicken skin. (Remove all rings from your fingers and move slowly and carefully, trying not to tear the skin.)
Rub remaining mixture on the skin. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Place the chicken, breast side down, in a roasting pan. Arrange around the chicken: 1/12 lbs. small potatoes, halved, ¾ lbs carrots, peeled and cut as desired, 1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges. (Use other root vegetables if you like.)
Add 2 Tb. of stock or water and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165 degrees and the vegetables are tender and browned around the edges, about 1½ hours.