Dear Rev. Know it all;
I am worried. My next door neighbor who is a member of the First Church of the Separated Brethren with Signs and Wonders Following says that I should not allow my children to dress up and go trick or treating on Halloween. It will lead them into occult practices and they will end up demon-possessed and burning in hell. Is this true?
Yours sincerely, Mrs. Holly Weyan
I suspect that forbidding trick-or-treating to children might have the opposite effect. I've met your neighbor's children and believe me I've been tempted to reach for the Holy Water a few times. Remember that forbidden fruit is sweetest. Children tend to develop a morbid interest in the things that their parents forbid most vehemently. Instead of saying no and hiding in the basement waiting for the apocalypse, perhaps you can encourage your children to dress as super-heroes and even saints.
Halloween is a way to laugh at our own fears. It is a sort of whistling past the cemetery. I would not forbid moderate Halloweenieness (Yes, a new word. You heard it here first.) to children. I would forbid it to adults. Halloween has become an adult holiday, with all the attendant debauchery and drunkenness. An unhealthy fixation on things occult seems to be growing, not on the part of children but on the part of parents and older siblings. It is as if parents are refusing to grow up. I hold myself and my fellow clergy responsible, in part. There is a natural awareness of and hunger for supernatural reality. The modern church, in it's wholesale neglect of supernatural reality has sent people elsewhere for explanations of the invisible dimension of their lives.
I think it is far more dangerous for adults and older teens to focus on the morbid and occult movies costume parties and what is up with the current popularity of sex vampires? We Catholics are the possessors of supernatural realities: resurrection, and spiritual warfare and the casting out of demons. These thing really happen in the Catholic faith. It may sound odd, but compared to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the idea that vampires drink blood seems a demonic parody. We have the real thing. Hollywood is just mocking us.
In the past few decades, many have tried to reduce the faith to a sort of self help movement of meetings and committees and snazzy ceremonies. The pastor of St. Odillo's in Berwyn, Illinois makes the point that the struggle in the church is not between so called liberals and conservatives. It is between those who believe in supernatural reality and those who don't. We have neglected supernatural things at our own peril. The result appears to be that Halloween, once a harmless night for children to indulge in harmless fantasy and high fructose treats is fast becoming a sort of a "pagan Christmas." The message of the real Christmas is, "Be not afraid!" as the angels said to the shepherds. The message of the new paganized Halloween is, "Be afraid, be very afraid!"
This bathing in terror is really dangerous for children and adults alike. So my suggestion is that you let your kids trick or treat and laugh at the fake stuff, making sure they know it's fake. Let me suggest a simple rule of thumb. If it gives you a bit of a fright and then makes you laugh it's probably okay. If it leaves you quaking with fear and causes nightmares it is best avoided all together.
Grown ups should act like grown ups and make it a children's holiday once again. And don't be the kind that passes out apples and granola bars. Pop for the good stuff, like Almond Joys and Reese's peanut butter cups. This year I think I'm going to dress up as a priest.
PS As for the scary movies, "Abbot and Costello meet the Werewolf" is probably okay. All the dreck that's coming out of Hollywood now, I would keep off limits to children. If you think it will give them nightmares don't let them watch it. And certainly don't let them watch anything you haven't seen it first.