As with many traditions, dressing up in costumes for Halloween has a history that blends pagan rituals with the celebration of Catholic feasts. In medieval times, the Celts would celebrate Samhain — the end of summer — on October 31st with costumes and animal sacrifices. The next day, Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day. While large and wealthy churches were able to display relics of saints, smaller and poorer churches had to make do by having a vigil procession of people dressed up as saints walking through crowds of other parishioners dressed as angels or demons. Today, the practice of dressing up on Halloween has turned into a nearly $3 billion industry. It’s interesting to note the selection of costumes and how they change with age. Little kids might be princesses or firemen. A little bit older and they want to be superheroes or movie characters. But eventually, the costumes take on whatever un-dead characters are trending at the time: ghosts, cursed pirates, vampires, or zombies. We greet them on our porch, give them candy, and send these pretend demons on their way.
While the trick-or-treaters dress up as make-believe demons, we must be reminded that demons are real. It is easy to forget this. It is easy to forget that Satan is real because he doesn’t ring our doorbell and say “trick or treat.” But logic holds that if God is real — and He is — and Jesus is real — and He is — then Satan and his legion must also be real. And so are their motives. They’re not content to stop on our front porch; they want to be invited into our homes, our lives, and our hearts. Like the classic image of an angel on one shoulder and demon on the other, they whisper in our ears. They pick at our faults and tease our imaginations. They breathe lies and poke at our weaknesses.
Fortunately, on our other shoulder sits our guardian angel who speaks words of righteousness, truth, and virtue. This is not a new struggle, but one that dates to the creation of man. Saint Paul speaks of this battle in Romans: “But I perceive another law within my body, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me with the law of sin which is in my body. Unhappy man that I am, who will free me from this body of death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord! Therefore, I serve the law of God with my own mind; but with the flesh, the law of sin.”
On the front lines of this battle between good and evil, lightness and dark, are the exorcists of the Church. They are spiritual paramedics, and like anyone in that line of work, their stories are both amazing and informative due to the raw and gritty nature of the work. One such exorcist, Fr. Chad Ripperger, said that one time he was exorcising someone possessed by Beelzebub. During the exorcism, Beelzebub told him, “My foothold in the Catholic Church is the self-love of its members.” Fr. Ripperger commented on this: “It’s because of our self-love that we end up committing a lot of our sins. It’s because we are unwilling to sacrifice and die for ourselves which is why we’ve got this huge problem in our church.”
Our daily battle is rarely against the vast yet misty forces of evil. While those forces do exist and have existed since the fall of Lucifer, the first battle we must win every day is the battle for our own hearts, the battle for our own souls. And in that battle, the real enemy that we face every day, the devil we are each fighting, is the one we know best: ourselves. Faith is a constant battle with the self. Do we believe in ourselves? Or do we believe in God? Lucifer fell because he had become a god unto himself. And we are tempted every day to become our own god through our own pride, our own ego, our own love of self.
Satan cannot make us do anything. Satan cannot make us sin. All he and his legion can do is speak to the devil we know best, to appeal to that pride, that ego, the love of self. We need to look him in the eye and say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not like God does, but as human beings do.”
Our battle, then, is to sacrifice and die to ourselves in the daily fight against the devil we know best.