“Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.”
– G.K. Chesterton
At this time of the year, as they bustle about for their little mock-Patricks and Augustines, gluing miters and stitching chasubles (each of the same fine material and nearly so well-crafted as the dreck one finds on a living Bishop) the Buzzkill Catholics are once again foisting onto the faithful their annual All Saints parties.
These parties are typically scheduled not on the Feast of All Saints, but on the evening of the day before, aiming intentionally to harsh your mellow and preclude the culturally normal observance of Halloween. The Buzzkill Catholics, you see, detest cultural normalcy.
The origins of Trick or Treating are hotly debated. Are these old Catholic traditions, filtered through the experience of Irish immigrants to America? Is it door to door alms for the poor in exchange for prayers? Do more anti-religious origins lie shrouded in history, such as the annual mockery of English Catholics on the anniversary of the failed terrorist plot of poor, powder-damp Guy Fawkes? Or does something even more sinister lurk, a pagan festival perhaps, or devil worship itself?
Nestled as he is at the heart of holy mother Church, this church of bone chapels, cadaver synods, the fresco of the Last Judgment, and monks who sleep in coffins lest they fail to memento mori, the modern Catholic Gentleman may observe the present hubbub and think to himself, “this lot are off their trolleys”.
My children, dear reader, have a compact disc of classic nursery rhymes. In the recording of “Three Blind Mice” in the place of the line about the Farmer’s wife cutting the tails off of the mice, are sung instead the words “She gave them some cheese and said have a good life”.
Imagine if you will growing up in the bubble wrap-and-helmet culture of here and now, under the careful tutelage of your helicopter parents. Despite hearty participation in the Childhood Obesity Epidemic, your self-esteem is high. You are a special snowflake. Nothing ever goes wrong. Not even vermin are dealt with harshly.
Imagine the jarring stupefaction and numb terror when you pick up a newspaper to discover that life is not quite exactly like a Disney movie (except that the girls have smaller eyes). Rather, this is a world where mothers pay those who have sworn to heal to instead gut their unborn children out of their wombs, where murder of every horrifying variety is splayed out across the news, where a gang of Stone Age Thugs in pajamas proposes to win the world for God by sawing the heads off everyone else, where sin overwhelms the disciplined man and crushes the undisciplined, where the melon spoon is too often confused with the caviar spoon, and the spork threatens to abolish the proper setting of flatware altogether.
Nay, The modern Catholic gentleman wishes to prepare his children, not only for the perils of slapdash etiquette but for the devils who lurk in the quiet waiting to damn them to hell.
Some have argued that the imagery of Halloween goes too far. To this the modern Catholic gentleman responds that in its observance, the feast of St. Valentine tends to licentiousness and lust. That of Saint Patrick has become an excuse for drunkenness, and Christmas an orgy of consumerist materialism. The world will corrupt, but the modern Catholic gentleman preserves.
But is it pagan in origin or is it Christian? Bemused but never befuddled, the modern Catholic gentleman, however ill-equipped to judge the conflicting accounts, knows better than to care what is the answer is at all.
He knows that if his children are to be any use to themselves or their families, our people, the church, or the world, they need to engage in the powers of imagination. They need also to know what evil is; they need also to know fear.
Halloween, the Catholic Gentleman knows, in all its spooky goodness, serves a pressing need in children. Cloaked in merriment lest children lose heart, the great parental conspiracy of Halloween induces kids to imagine some of the most terrible (and terrifying) facts of human existence. This darkness, juxtaposed with the light of All Saints, is no more a thing to be missed than is all the candy he will steal from his children as they sleep.
And when his Buzzkill Catholic friends inquire as to which saint his kid will dress up as for All Saints Day, he replies with courteous zeal, “That freaking awesome Saint who’s also a ninja!”
For just as there exists no darkness so great that it will not be pierced by the smallest light of the jack-o’-lantern, neither is there ignorance which the wisdom of the modern Catholic gentlemen cannot overcome. His is a faith that baptizes pagan temples, enshrines the mortal remains of the departed in its altars, and battles fallen angels face to face. His God commands His people to eat His very flesh and blood; his saints have conquered the black magic of druids and laid axe to the tree of false gods, all to claim victory over the power of death.
The Catholic Gentleman and his children do not fear Halloween. To fear it is to give it a power it does not possess. Prayers said, his little sugar-addled minions will be tucked snugly in their beds, and he will rummage through their bags, seeking his tithe.
His duty done, he may retire for cocktails.
John Carriere is a salesman who successfully dropped out of high school in the 90’s. He likes flower gardening and shooting things with guns. He lives in Ontario with his wife and five children where they attend the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He produces a quasi-frequent podcast called The Carriere Show.
Originally published on Oct 31, 2014
John Carriere is a salesman who successfully dropped out of high school in the 90’s. He likes flower gardening and shooting things with guns. He lives in Ontario with his wife and four children where they attend the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He podcasts, reasonably well, at http://facebook.com/TheCarriereShow/
The money quote:
“The world will corrupt, but the modern Catholic gentleman preserves.”
I know the horror of the modern world. It’s a world where young people can’t tell you the difference between the kettle and the tea pot, and will, without the slightest quiver of a qualm, put their damp spoons straight. in. to. the. sugar bowl! Or, dear heaven! will even stir their tea with the sugar spoon!!! I despair.
And men leave their damned hats on, inside someone’s house! Or worse — in church!
Or people who talk on their phones in one of the quiet cars of a commuter train.
People who take the beginning of Mass as the time that they should crack open Sippy cups and snacks for their children. (NEVER happens at the TLM.) People who talk on their cell phones the whole time they are shopping (leaving a trail of personal details) and won’t even get off to check out.
You haven’t been to many TLMs in Europe, it would seem 🙂
Sic transit gloria mundi.
I am, moreover, a strict traditionalist when it comes to Halloween observance. None of this modern ninjas and mutant turtles. Ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves, and various monsters of celtic mythology all the way. (Except for the Halloween of 1977, when I felt obliged to express my appreciation for Darth Vader’s archetypal bad-guyness. But I was 11 and the target audience.)
I was that age that year, and although I memorized the film with the light sabers, I think that I went that year in homemade gypsy getup. If you know central European thinking, that’s scary in a kid’s universe.
Yeah, I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. I’ll see your four kids and raise you three more. I don’t have time to be a helicopter. Neighborhood trick or treating has just gotten out of hand. The decorations are now too realistic, and the costumes of the teens and adults range from slutty to nightmare-inducing. We did years of the traditional Halloweens. My kids actually prefer the Halloween party at church. So while I’m raising future evangelists and martyrs, I’m going to skip tripping over unusual landscaping, trying to herd my children (and no one else’s by mistake), and twelve-year-olds in serial killer costumes who jump out at preschoolers from behind bushes. I won’t even have to explain anymore pregnant nun costumes. And I’m pretty sure my children will experience all the ugliness and sin of the world. But it doesn’t have to happen on a holiday.
P.S. I seem to remember reading once that never in the Bible is the idea of sheltering seen as a negative. We shelter a child until they are old enough to deal with the concept.
Unless you are a prophet, you don’t know where your children will be in fifteen years, much less a little army of “future evangelists and martyrs”.
Some devout relatives of mine had nine children, raised on a farm in a strong, traditional Catholic community and parish. One child became an excellent priest, another is a leftwing activist who hobnobs with the wealthy and influential while ushering in the culture of death. One child became a model Catholic father and provider for eight children, while two others divorced or separated with great dysfunction to follow. I could go on.
Neither the parents or onlookers could have predicted how things would shake out, and not even the children. Judas could never have imagined he would betray Christ and hang himself while he was going village to village driving out demons and healing the sick.
As someone reminded me today, we Catholics are a people of BOTH/AND. We can have the secular holiday of Halloween with trick-or-treat, dressing up in anything from a princess to a vampire and collecting piles of snacks that parents usually control. AND We can celebrate the Church Triumphant, go to Mass, have the kids dress for a parade of saints.
I agree. I think the writer was speaking of the replacing of one with the other. In some quarters, you’re treated like you’re trying to get your kids possessed if you do Halloween at all.
Glad to read this writer again – even if he’s not keeping up a blog these days.
I have always enjoyed Hallowe’en in all its spooky glory. My thought is that the kids should be allowed all the excitement of a kid’s holiday (even if it has been, like Doctor Who, warped for the fun of immature grown-ups) and then brought A) to the cemetery the next day to visit and pray over family graves (as in many a Catholic country) and B) to church.
To baptize the pagan, that is, to immerse what is pagan in what is holy, and to immerse what is holy in what is pagan, are two different things. This article and many of the comments seem to ignore the reality of witchcraft, the demonic, and the call for Catholics to evangelize a culture in need of Christ. A true Catholic gentlemen is not afraid to stand up and promote the feasts of the Church and to teach his children to do the same. Imitating pagans and demons is the failure of American culture to recognize reality. We ought not to join in on it since that is to extinguish our light, not let it shine out for others to see.
I see both sides in this argument. When I was growing up, there were lots of ghosts and witches, but there was a much more fun atmosphere. These days, in many places, there really does seem to be a heavy element of REAL occult, not just “play” occult. For that reason, I think we should be cautious. I live in rural Kansas, and even a little town not far from where I live has had problems with people burning cars on “Devil Night” just as they do in big urban places like Detroit. When I was growing up, I’d never even heard the word “abortion.” Now, Satan’s own sacrament has become federal policy. And the music…. Beatles and Beach Boys back then, whereas nowadays there are many, many heavy-metal or death-metal groups that very flagrantly worship Satan, and glorify suicide and exhort their listeners to kill themselves. What I’m trying to say is that our whole culture has gotten much more hell-saturated in many ways, so I think caution is appropriate.
In another place on your blog, Steve, you have an article rightly raising the alarm about occult imagery in our culture. How is it then, you publish this piece that mocks parents who are trying to protect their children from that as “buzzkill Catholics”? The author of this article is way too cavalier about the dangers of toying with the occult. Let’s uphold the parents who teach their children to emulate saints as opposed to witches and vampires instead of mocking them.
Because there’s a difference between playing with the occult and dressing up as a pirate, a ninja, and Batman (respectively, as my boys will be doing on Monday) and going out to get candy.
It’s important to always strive for prudence over extremism. And remember where a lot of the anti-Halloween bias came from:
I don’t like the prominence given to Halloween over other holidays, I don’t like the obsession with the overtly macabre found in some quarters, and I am aware that many who are involved in the occult have attempted to co-opt the day.
But it isn’t theirs. They don’t get to own it unless we let it go.
I have an ingrained anti-puritanical streak. I have always found Catholicism to be a religion of both asceticism AND bounty; we fast and we feast; we are not afraid of beautiful artwork and soaring gothic structures and gilt candlesticks and marble floors. We raise sex to the level of sacred, but we’re also the most hard nosed about chastity. We drink and we smoke but we also spend just as much time on our knees.
Halloween is not a harmful thing in itself; it can certainly be treated that way, but I refuse to concede the ground of wholesome fun to creepy losers.
Totally understand Steve! But don’t think it’s right to be negative (edit: as per this article) towards those who choose something different too.
Negative? Who was being negative? If you’re referring to the article, I didn’t write it. Although I find it no more provocative than Chesterton.
Buzzkill Catholics? I liked your article better.
Meh. I think we need a thicker skin.
Haven’t time to comment more now. Will try to come back later.
This isn’t about thick/thin skin.
The author mentions cultural normalcy. Which culture is that? Catholic culture?? Pagan culture??
And what is the key point of Chesterton’s quote mentioned in this article? ‘Men…should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice’. Are the ‘buzzkill’ Catholics corrupt cowards who place the devil above God??
Perhaps some Catholics are avoiding halloween because they don’t realise it has Catholic origins. Maybe they know and choose not to continue this custom, or at least, not as it has become, or choose to do something else.
Christmas (and Easter) cannot be paralleled with All Hallow’s eve. No Catholic can decide not to celebrate these because they do not like the secular celebrations that have taken over our modern culture. The liturgical calendar includes the feasts of St. Valentine and St. Patrick. There are various customs associated with these which no-one is obliged to follow.
All Hallow’s eve is in preparation for the next day, the feast of All Hallows or All Saint’s day. There is nothing besides this in the liturgy for the 31st of October. This I imagine (correct me if I’m wrong) is because hell has no place in the liturgy.
All Saint’s day is the day we honour the Church Triumphant (all those who are saints, known to us and unknown), we think on Heaven. All Souls day is the special day to pray for the souls in purgatory, and of course it is not limited to this day, prayers should be said every day for them, but this is a special day in the liturgy to keep us in remembrance of them.
Now these two days set us up for the liturgical dedication of the month of November, the month we dedicate to especially remember and pray for the poor souls in purgatory.
(Have edited out part of this as I have stumbled across an article from 1958 that suggests other than what I wrote here based on my research at the time. Shall edit in a link to that info soon)
And, are the ‘trick or treaters’ any different than the ‘buzzkills’? Not that I see.
You get ‘trick or treaters’ that spend lots of time making very intricate costumes and ‘buzzkills’ like myself whose children get to be any saint, the costume of which, can consist of a sheet, a piece of cord, and a plastic sword or flower. You get ‘trick or treaters’ who look down upon ”buzzkills’, and ‘buzzkills’ like myself who may hold a different opinion, but don’t look down upon others for it.
‘Trick or treaters’ who hold hell of no regard and ‘buzzkills’ who have made their choices precisely because they are very serious about the reality of hell, no bubble wrap involved.
Honestly, I think we can give the stereotypes of ‘trick or treaters’ and ‘buzzkills’ the flick.
Don’t feel obliged to respond. We both know there are more important things happening right now.
God bless you Steve and family! Praying for you!
1) Halloween and Celtic festival of Samhain. My understanding is that the latter and the activities of druids during the festival and its trick-or-treating was something that the ordinary folks dreaded and you wouldn’t want to be a part of it. The treat you provided a human sacrifice from a member of your family who together with other victims died horribly and the trick was if you didn’t provide the human sacrifice the druids got the demons to pay a visit to the house for a trick. End result the same, someone from your house died, and horribly.
2) All Hallows’ Eve later Halloween, i.e. the evening before November 1 the date designated in the eighth century by Pope Gregory III as a time to honor all saints and martyrs. It is no longer on the Church’s calendar (OF & EF); and
3) Halloween as a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating (safe), dressing up in costume, school parades, etc; and
4) Halloween as a major satanic holiday.
My understanding is that 2) is something that was wholesome preparing us for All Saints’ Day. Where do we see that nowadays?
As regards 3) know people who are allowing their kids to dress up and participate in school parades or do trick-or-treating at a mall but not allow the after dark door-to-door trick-or-treating.