Several years ago, our then ten-year-old son surprised his (non-Catholic) grandparents by announcing, matter of factly, that "We're Catholics, so we have to believe in vampires and werewolves." Needless to say, I had a little explaining to do, both to his grandparents and to him.
He was on to something, though. Saying that we believe in vampires and werewolves was his way of saying that, as Catholics, we believe in the reality of evil. And we have to believe in the reality of evil in order to believe in the reality of good--a point made a few years later by William Peter Blatty, the author of The Exorcist. (See The Exorcist, Horror, and Faith.) Modern Christians, including many Catholics, who try to downplay or erase the reality of Hell and of Satan and of evil often don't realize that they're also diminishing the importance of what it means to be a saint. If man is innately good, and there are no "principalities and powers" trying to capture his soul for all eternity, then what's the point of making the sacrifices that saints make?
Much of the modern aversion to Halloween, I think, stems from the same unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of evil. But there's a reason why we dress up as ghouls and goblins on the night before we celebrate the feast of All Saints Day, and, despite the claims of supposed satanists and Wiccans and anti-Halloween Christians like Jack Chick, it's actually a Christian reason: We believe in a world that extends beyond the one that we can see, a world in which angels and demons do contest for the souls of men, and the Prince of Lies grows in power by convincing people that he does not exist.
If for no other reason than the fact that it reminds us that, as Hamlet tells his friend, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy," Halloween is worth celebrating.
(Saint Michael the Archangel, a bronze statue executed by Flemish sculptor Peter Anton von Verschaffelt in 1753, stands atop the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy. Photo © Scott P. Richert)