Spirituality for Today – October 2009 – Volume 14, Issue 3

Editorial – Replacing God

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of Halloween candy in a pumpkin shaped bucket

There he was. I spotted him. Last year and the year before that, I had seen the young man dressed in black, standing near the road in front of a shopping center, bearing a black and orange placard reading: Halloween Store. Driving by him, I pondered over the oddities of our American culture. As I remembered, Halloween was a night of childhood joy, a night of donning a scary costume and approaching neighborhood homes in hopes of receiving a sugary delight. How come adults have taken such a fervent interest in celebrating Halloween? There may be more going on than just a reason for having a party. Whenever a society becomes more welcoming toward a self-worshipping and nihilistic credo, a wide spiritual void occurs. Yet, a spiritual need remains and cannot be extinguished long by such a paltry agent as the human will. Eternal longings and sacred echoes are not so easily stilled.

In his article A Church in Guantanamo, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen exemplified the struggle between the spiritual and the secular. Visiting the central plaza in Guantanamo, Mr. Cohen spotted the Church of Santa Catalina de Ricci. Upon entering, he was surprised to discover that the church was full of worshippers. He had spent over a week in Cuba deluged by the media and local authorities lauding the glories of Fidel Castro and the Revolution. The priest preached about the Mass as a consistent encounter with God, the gospel parable of the Talents, and the need to be a witness to the gospel. The writer mused over the experience and reflected: "I am a stranger to faith. Yet a wave of physical relief spread over me. After 10 days in Cuba, with its hymns to the heroism of Fidel, Che Guevara, the Revolution, and socialism, the priest seemed a merciful figure. Instead of the deification of Fidel and the utopian perfectibility of mankind, he posited human fallibility and consoling salvation. Graham Greene's masterpiece, 'The Power and the Glory,' came to me, with its condemned priest in his cell: 'When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you can always begin to feel pity – that was a quality God's image carried with it.' Yes, pity. And if this priest had the power to turn the wafer into the flesh and blood of God, and if the people gathered here believed that and were consoled, I was ready to bow my head in silence."

A feeling of pity entered my heart viewing that young man standing in the late October cold and advertising a pathetic substitute for the need of God. People running in search of truth in the prophecies of Nostradamus, Aztec calendars, crystals, rocks, or the thousands of cults spread throughout the land is a sad delusion.

The Truth is readily to be found. The Truth was always too important to be hidden or entrusted to some elite class. The Truth, the encounter with God, as that Cuban priest declared, is close and sure. One may pray that those searching souls who seek to find something in Halloween that isn't there or in any of the other expressions of "snake oil" spirituality, may note that the night, All Hallows Eve, points to the Feast of All Saints. These are the very souls that found the Truth that these revelers seek. These are the souls who live in the love that is that Truth forever.

On another night, a night of eternal consequence, the God-made-man gave us his flesh and blood as food for salvation and through all time calls for his creation to gather and to receive. Although essentially different from that young man in black, we are to be an advertisement for both the source and the end of humankind's spiritual quest.