I put this story in the blog last year about the Irish Catholic roots of “Jack O’ Lantern”.
“As the story goes, several centuries ago amongst the myriad of towns and villages in Ireland , there lived a drunkard known as “Jack the Smith”. Jack was known throughout the land as a deceiver, manipulator and otherwise dreg of society. On a fateful night, the devil overheard the tale of Jack’s evil deeds and silver tongue. Unconvinced (and envious) of the rumors, the devil went to find out for himself whether or not Jack lived up to his vile reputation.
Typical of Jack, he was drunk and wandering through the countryside at night when he came upon a body on his cobblestone path. The body with an eerie grimace on its face turned out to be the Devil. Jack realized somberly this was his end; the devil had finally come to collect his malevolent soul. Jack made a last request: he asked the devil to let him drink ale before he departed to hell. Finding no reason not to acquiesce the request, the devil took Jack to the local pub and supplied him with many alcoholic beverages. Upon quenching his thirst, Jack asked the devil to pay the tab on the ale, to the devil’s surprise. Jack convinced the devil to metamorphose into a silver coin with which to pay the bartender (impressed upon by Jack’s unyielding nefarious tactics). Shrewdly, Jack stuck the now transmogrified devil (coin) into his pocket, which also contained a crucifix. The crucifix’s presence prevented the devil from escaping his form. This coerced the devil to agree to Jack’s demand: in exchange for the devil’s freedom, the devil had to spare Jack’s soul for 10 years.
Ten years later to the date when Jack originally struck his deal, he found himself once again in the devil’s presence. Same as the setting before, Jack happened upon the devil and seemingly accepted it was his time to go to hell for good. As the devil prepared to take him to the underworld, Jack asked if he could have one apple to feed his starving belly. Foolishly the devil once again agreed to this request. As the devil climbed up the branches of a nearby apple tree, Jack surrounded its base with crucifixes. The devil, frustrated at the fact that he been entrapped again, demanded his release. As Jack did before, he demanded that his soul never be taken by the devil into hell. The devil agreed and was set free.
Eventually the drinking and unstable lifestyle took its toll on Jack; he died the way he lived. As Jack’s soul prepared to enter heaven through the gates of St. Peter he was stopped. Jack was told that because of his sinful lifestyle of deceitfulness and drinking, he was not allowed into heaven. The dreary Jack went before the Gates of Hell and begged for commission into underworld. The devil, fulfilling his obligation to Jack, could not take his soul. To warn others, he gave Jack an ember, marking him a denizen of the netherworld. From that day on until eternity’s end, Jack is doomed to roam the world between the planes of good and evil, with only an ember inside a hollowed turnip (“turnip” actually referring to a large swede) to light his way.”
This story has great Catholic teachings contained in it and easily understood. Drunkard: It goes along with the Bible that drunkards will have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. Devil: It has the devil playing a great deal with bad people. Deceit: It has deceit as a moral evil. Reality of Death: It explains that we are all going to die. Consequences for Actions: when we do we will have to pay for our actions here during this life. Crucifix: Twice the devil is trapped by the crucifix that only Catholics use, (other christian groups just have the cross). Saints: St. Peter is a Catholic saint in which protestants and non-denominational christians do not believe in.
The only problem with this tale is that there are only three places we are sent to after death; Purgatory, Heaven or Hell. Hell is forever. Purgatory is only temporary where you pay for the temporal punishment for sins confessed but not duly made up for by sufficient penance. Once in purgatory you are forever saved from hell.
In this story, Jack is not allowed into heaven or hell but sent to roam around between life and death in the darkness to warn people of their pending doom. But in reality no matter what the devil promised him, one mortal sin not confessed with true contrition, damns a person to hell forever. As you live so shall you die.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.