Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Be Not Afraid ... Of Zombies

By Steve Dabrowski
Steve Dabrowski

I love zombie movies. My dad was conned by some friends into taking me to see “Dawn of the Dead” at a drive-in back in the early 80’s, and although scared out of my wits, I developed quite an appetite for zombies. I do not like gory movies with pointless plots; I prefer films that use zombies as an allegory for a world overtaken by selfish passion. I believe the contemporary fascination with zombies is an implicit acknowledgment that the world knows there will be a general resurrection; but aside from knowing Jesus, such a thing seems gruesome and fearful. But to those who know Jesus Christ, the general resurrection is anticipated in hope and joy. Putting it simply, Christians don’t worry about zombies.

It saddens me that the same ignorance that turns the resurrection of the dead into a fearful event also casts a dark shadow on a solemn time in Christianity. Many Evangelical communities offer alternatives to All Hallow’s Eve, seeing the costumes as evil (and, frankly, in some cases today, this is warranted). In reality, the costumes were originally intended to illustrate the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell), and the more gruesome ones were hoped to possibly move souls to repentance. The night prior to All Saints Day has traditionally been a time when acts of charity and piety were performed in preparation to celebrate the Church Triumphant. Granted, the contemporary observation of Halloween barely resembles the Catholic Holiday of All Hallows Eve, and I think it is time for us to reclaim our tradition.

I’m not suggesting that yours be the weird house that gives out apples with Bible quotes tied to the stem. Nor am I suggesting you put a sign out front educating people on the real nature of All Hallows Eve and explaining this as the reason you don’t have candy. These are two really good ways to ensure you’ll be cleaning up egg yolk and toilet paper until Thanksgiving. Rather, I’d like to suggest we build up our Church homes by reflecting as a family on the Four Last Things.

Our Polexican house (half Polish, half Mexican) offers a mix of Dzień Zaduszny (“The Day of Prayers for the Souls”) and Dia de Muertos (“Day of the Dead”). We build an altar upon on which we place pictures of our loved ones who have died (most notably our fathers), and we include a few items of significance (offrendas). We then offer prayers for our family members who have died, and we ask God to shorten their time in Purgatory. As a family, we attend Mass on All Saint’s Day (which also happens to be my dad’s birthday), and we try to do the same on All Souls Day. During this time, the offrendas serve as a reminder of those we love in need of our prayers, and these prayers make them present to us. Since my daughter never met her grandfathers, this practice also serves as a way to keep their memories alive so that she can pray for them, too. The days from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 are holy days in our house, full of remembrance and prayer.

To quote a movie often shown on Halloween, “we aint’ ‘fraid ‘a no ghosts,” nor are we worried about zombies, vampires or witches. We do welcome the remembrance of the souls in need of our prayers, and we enthusiastically await our reunion with them on the day of resurrection.  We also reflect on those Four Last Things, in the hope that death never finds us unprepared—the only thing worthy of fear. And perhaps someone might see our prayer altar and ask us what it is, thus allowing us to share the truth of the holy days at hand, during which we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1).  After all, Christians don’t worry about zombies; we hope in the resurrection that leads to eternal life.