Just in time for Halloween, the Vatican has hosted a conference of exorcists. What's on the program? How to vomit-proof your exorcist suit? I don't even want to think about a trade-show type marketplace.
In addition, the spoilsports of the Vatican have sent out the word that, come the 31st, good Catholic kids should dress up like saints, because it is Holy-ween. (Actually, dudes, hallow does mean holy.)
This is old hat to me and my sister who were raised in the good old days of the Catholic School Hegemony that was 1950's Urban America, Worcester (Mass.) Division. We had Halloween parties at school, but they were All Hallow's Eve parties because the next day was All Saint's Day, a Holy Day of Obligation (No school. Yay! Had to get up early anyway to go to Mass! Boo!). We had to dress up like saints. This is what we refer to as "compulsory fun."
I won't go into the details--this was back in the day when costumes were home-made, with perhaps a purchased mask--but one year I dressed as my patron saint, Saint Catherine of Alexandria who was tortured to death on a wheel. The only wheel I could find was from an old baby buggy, but needs must; there was no way an actual torture wheel was in the budget and my father was no handyman.
|My costume had a much higher neckline.|
Actually, as a patron saint, I preferred the more intellectual Saint Catherine of Siena, but she didn't meet such a colorful end. She only ate Communion wafers for years so she, duh, starved to death. Not much of a nutritional role model, but she was otherwise a smart cookie and a few years ago I got to visit her mummified head in Siena.
Do you sense a theme here? The lives of the saints usually ended in some sort of torture, and we were spared no details. Machines of individual destruction included wheels (St. C of A), racks, crucifixes both right side up and upside down, griddles (St. Lawrence, whose reported last words were "Turn me over, I'm done on this side), and arrows (St. Sebastian, the painter's favorite pincushion.) Methods of dispatch included burning at the stake, dismemberment, drawing and quartering, severing of breasts, gouging out of eyeballs and tongues. And, we were told, this sort of thing was going on right now in other parts of the world, and if Sister Says It You'd Better Believe It.
That this pornography of pain was considered suitable fare for elementary school children makes me shriek. And if you think pornography is too strong a word, go google "St. Sebastian images." No wonder I was a nervous wreck, worried as I was about whether I would renounce my faith (direct path to Hell) or submit to disemboweling by a Communist (immediate stairway to Heaven). Things got much easier when I realized I had no faith to renounce. It's possible I believed in Santa Claus longer than I believed in Baby Jesus.
|St. Sebastian, mild version, only two arrows and no gushing blood.|
Note to the boys in the black cassocks (which make nifty witch costumes, by the by): Focusing on the sad, demented, tortured, and gruesome lives of the saints isn't such smart marketing. Not many kiddos want to grow up to suck on lepers' sores, like St. Damien. Then again, maybe that's the type of sheep you are trying to attract to the flock.
This year, as most years, we'll be joining family in Salem, Mass. for the Halloween festivities. The closest to a saints' costume we'll see will likely be on a grown man dressed as a priest accompanied by a naughty nurse or a pirate wench. We'll sit on the stoop and watch the traditional parade of goblins, ghosts, princesses, witches and superheros. The only vigil we'll be keeping will be over the candy bowl, because at my sister's house, located in the heart of Witch City, and visited by hundreds of sugar hounds, it's one candy bar to a customer.