Skip to comments.Bringing back the dead… Catholic style
Posted on 10/23/2016 3:54:13 PM PDT by NYer
Forget about ghosts and goblins on Halloween; how about a walk through a dark cemetery where dead people who once walked the earth appear out of nowhere and talk to you about life and death, heaven and hell?
The “Back from the Dead Cemetery Walk” in Emmitsburg, Maryland has provided such an experience every October for the past 12 years. Held in the historic cemetery on the grounds of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine, it’s the brainchild of Fr. Brian Nolan, chaplain for Mount Saint Marys University.
The idea for the walk was inspired by a haunted house at Mount Saint Marys, where students would meet Frankenstein, Dracula, etc. It was controversial among seminarians because of its secular nature, but Nolan says the justification for it was that, “first we spook the college students, then we evangelize them. At the end… the Legion of Mary handed out rosaries and prayer cards.” But he remembers thinking, Why cant we create something that would help college students learn about their Catholic faith on questions of the afterlife, angels, and the saints who showed us how to live the Christian life?
Eventually, thats what he did. A few years after his ordination, Nolan – who’s been involved in theater over the years began writing the scripts for a “Back from the Dead Cemetery Walk,” which he calls an “evangelization drama.”
Nolan wanted it to be “inspiring, encouraging, and prayer-provoking.” He intentionally avoided controversial theories of the Last Things in the scripts and instead used references for private revelation from sources like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Genoa, mainstream teaching of the Catholic faith, and stories from the lives of the saints about how to love God and neighbor.
Nolan attributes the notion of this Cemetery Walk to St. Francis approach to spreading the Gospel.
“He was the first to promote a ‘live Nativity’ during Christmastime, and also encouraged the faithful, for whom the vast majority would be unable to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to meditate on the Way or Stations of the Cross during Lent,” explains Nolan. “The Cemetery Walk extends this idea to evangelizing our culture during the month of October. When the secular world is speaking about ‘the afterlife, the dead and demons,’ this program helps one reflect on preparing to meet our Lord, living the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the reality of both the good and fallen angels.”
So what exactly does a person actually experience on one of these walks?
Perhaps it goes without saying that its held in the dark. You must reserve tickets for the free event in advance and then groups of 8-15 people are let in at a time, greeted by a lantern-carrying grave digger who welcomes the participants and sets the stage for what they’ll encounter. During the approximately 40-minute walk, many familiar people show up, like St. Therese of Liseux, St. John de Brebeuf, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John of the Cross, St. Gianna Molla, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). There are souls in purgatory, two young children from heaven, and even a Screwtape devil. Sometimes these characters even know participants by name, which enhances the personal experience, and provides an extra surprise.
The drama is designed that way to move participants and inspire them, as well as to help them ponder death, judgment, heaven and hell. One woman told Nolan that her friend went on the walk and was changed. “He was crying about it. And the next day he forgave somebody who he had not been able to forgive,” she said.
The actors themselves who are integral to the success of the dramatization and are usually amateurs as well as people of faith are themselves changed by the experience. “We have many seminarians participate, and some actors return year after year,” says Nolan.
The Walk has grown every year in Emmitsburg without much advertising and this year it will be held over five evenings to accommodate the growing interest. Other groups around the country are now beginning these Cemetery Walks, too. The Back from Dead web site offers a packet for sale for those who want to start one a “soup to nuts” guide which includes scripts for the actors, advice about costumes and staging, and details of how to plan one. Each year the packet is updated, but a one-time purchase of $75 provides lifetime access to all updates and additional info.
The Back from the Dead Cemetery Walk provides a thrill for all those who enjoy the spooky elements of Halloween, but within a Christian context. Ultimately, though, Nolan says its an invitation to live a life of holiness and faithfulness.
this is about an hour and a half away from me; depending upon DC traffic.
What a marvelous idea.
Controversial "theories"? Is he referring to Catholic teaching on things like Death, Judgment, Heaven, Purgatory and Hell? But then these are mentioned later in the article, so I am confused.
Maybe they’re referring to non-Catholic ideas like the rapture, the millennium, etc.
All Souls Day bump.
Letter #95: Remembering the Dead
Hungry Souls (a bit of a [Book] review) Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
What Is All Souls Day (Commemoration of the Faithful Departed)?
All Saints or All Souls? Differences should be black and white
All Souls' Day [Catholic Caucus]
Why I Am Catholic: For Purgatory, Thank Heavens (Ecumenical)
Q and A: Why Pray for the Dead? [Ecumenical]
“….and Death is Gain” – A Meditation on the Christian View of Death [Catholic Caucus]
99 & 1/2 Won’t Do – A Meditation on Purgatory
The Month of November: Thoughts on the "Last Things"
To Trace All Souls Day
November 2 -- All Souls Day
On November: All Souls and the "Permanent Things"
"From the Pastor" ALL SAINTS & ALL SOULS
Praying for the Dead [All Souls Day] (Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
To Trace All Souls Day [Ecumenical]
All Souls Day [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
The Roots of All Souls Day
The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
During Month of Souls, Recall Mystic, St. Gertrude the Great
All Saints and All Souls
Personally, I’d have no problem if this “for profit” theatrical production was performed in staged cemetery.
But the fact that it’s being done in a real, Catholic cemetery disturbs me.
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