Sunday, November 1, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Why I am Roman Catholic

I once saw a shirt with that title on it, and it had some good ones. I remember pleasing your mother, beautiful weddings, having great popes (we've advanced since the Middle Ages, in case you weren't watching) and grand things like that. However, the makers of the t-shirt entirely overlooked two excellent reasons for being Catholic, which I think deserve attention. The first is for a later post. The second, being seasonal, is the subject today. The great thing about being Catholic, in addition to all those other great things, is that Catholics celebrate twice.

I know what you're thinking--"Wait a minute--isn't that the Jews who do it twice? They have Santa Claus for Christmas and they have Hanukkah!" Which does seem unfair, until you remember that Catholics have Halloween and All Saints' Day.

Of course, if you are not a practicing Catholic, you don't have this advantage, because All Saints' Day will be just another golf hole for you--or more likely, another occasion to ferry or be ferried to and from soccer games. If, on the other hand, you are a cloistered Catholic, you probably don't celebrate Halloween.

I would argue, however, that the true Catholic spirit is catholic also with a small c. Catholics have been accused by Protestants and atheists alike of adopting pagan customs with reckless abandon. As long as the customs are exorcised where's the harm? I don't recommend wandering the streets as a vampire next October 31st. (Note to Robert Pattinson: this is not a good way to pick up girls. And, btw, Robert Mitchum has the better bedroom eyes.) I am even slightly wary of the tendency to don witch hats and scars a la Harry and Hermione. There is no good excuse, however, for not dressing up as your local IRS agent, and scaring the heck out of your elders. I hear Palin and Obama masks are also hot this year. Or, if you prefer to avoid politics, partisan and otherwise, why not turn the whole thing into a history lesson? Henry VIII was one disturbed individual, and with all that padding the costume would be sooo warm. Lucrezia Borgia would be a great option for the ladies.

Then, once you've looted all your neighbors and possibly impressed them with your historical savvy, you can head for your local parish Saints' Day party, where there will be (a) more candy, (b) games, and (c) other Catholics.

Concerned about having to create not one, but two costumes for your children? Doubling up is not as hard as you might think. St. Sebastian comes with arrows sticking out of his torso. St. Thomas More (and plenty of other people) can carry their heads like Ichabod's horseman. St. Lucy forgoes the whole head, and just carries her own eyeballs. Yeah, Catholics have scary down. My favorite doubling idea, however, is the St. Lawrence: you strap your dad's grill to your stomach, and tell the neighbors you're a hamburger.

This may give you the impression that the only good doubling costumes involve martyrdom, but the options are far more varied than that. In these days of Dan Brown et al, there's no reason why a St. Therese or Clare (not to mention a St. Francis or John of the Cross) could be terrifying to your non-Catholic friends. Parents are advised, however, to limit these costumes to older children with a well-developed sense of humor and apologetics skills. With younger children the best option is the simple historical costume that was worn by both saint and sinner: Lucrezia Borgia becomes Rita of Cascia (pre-convent days), etc.

For Catholics who are still dubious about this whole Halloween idea, there are three things to bear in mind. First, there's nothing like a good memento mori now and again, and there's no better place to get such reminders than from the world outside. Think of it as an educational experience for the whole family. Besides, there are so many opportunties for laughing at your neighbors! Just save the humor until you're all packed into the fifteen passenger and riding home--no reason to alienate folks right after you take their gummy bears. Besides, there's nothing like lots of candy and a small space when it comes to fueling brilliant put-downs of the fruitcakes outside--put-downs which build family solidarity, by the way.

The second thing to bear in mind is St. Augustine's injunction to "take the gold of the Egyptians." When the Israelites were leaving their slavery in Egypt, God told them to ask for their neighbor's wealth in order to fund future enterprises; and apparently the Israelites succeeded quite well. I'm not saying that candy as quite as good as ready cash; but, as they say in the welfare lines, every little bit helps!

Finally, in the immortal words of St. Philip Neri: "A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than one that is cast down."

So lighten up. And pass the Reeses, please. I love being Catholic!

1 comment:

  1. I remember that last picture! Too bad we didn't beat Francis' weight this year. :(