By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 31, 2019
For many Halloweens when I was a kid, I was decked out in a no-nonsense, inexpensive outfit consisting of a white sheet with holes cut out for eyes. When I begged for something more exciting, like a store-bought get-up, my mother reminded me she wasn’t made of money.
Eventually, however, I wore her down and she went to the five-and-dime and bought me something extremely glorious in my 10-year-old opinion.
It was a bright yellow, shiny costume with the words “I tawt I taw a puddy tat” emblazoned on the bodice.
I took my role as Tweety Bird pretty seriously and kept my distance from any kids dressed as cats. And my candy stash seemed to double, once I was no longer condemned to being a bargain-basement ghost.
Looking back, I see plenty of other costumes in my life that had nothing to do with Halloween. At Catholic high school, I dressed in a crisp uniform and saddle oxfords that I dutifully polished. I said my prayers, went to Mass and lit votive candles for the faithful departed.
Everything fell apart when I arrived on the University of Florida campus at age 17. Embracing atheism with a passion, I gleefully traded my rosary for love beads and jumped on board the hippie bandwagon. My costume consisted of tie-dye dresses and an Army gas-mask bag that served as a purse.
My poor parents put up with me, probably hoping, “This, too, shall pass.” They didn’t know the extent of my rebellion, however, since I accompanied them to Mass when I came home on college breaks. They didn’t know I’d become a major party animal who lived in an apartment complex dubbed “Sin City” for good reasons.
Years later, when I married, I continued donning the costume of non-believer, laughing at the thought of people who went to church on Sundays. It was so much more fun to read the papers and have a second cup of coffee.
It seems God had other plans for me, however, because when I was 43, I found myself walking into a Catholic church and getting down on my knees. “Help me to believe” was my first prayer, and it was answered quickly.
My parents had died years before this, but perhaps they were pulling some strings behind the scenes. You see, the catalyst for returning to my childhood faith was something quite impulsive my husband did when he visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
When he mentioned lighting votive candles for my parents, I was shocked. My first thought was, “I never prayed for the repose of Mommy and Daddy’s souls!” One candle led to another and before long, my atheist costume started unraveling, and I was at Mass again.
Sometimes I regret the idiocy and immorality of my younger years, since I drank too much, partied too heavily and turned my back completely on God.
Then I realize that in God’s eyes, a thousand years pass as a second. He saw me in the womb, he saw me in the crib and he saw me decked out in my store-bought Halloween get-up. He knew how many rosaries I said in grade school and how hard I fought him in college.
Sometimes I imagine taking a time machine back to the evening when I first pranced around in that Tweety Bird costume. I’d like to tell my younger self, “Stay on the straight and narrow path, obey your parents and keep going to church. Believe me, you’ll thank me one day.”
But, let’s face it, she probably would’ve become a party animal anyway. And perhaps in some ways that wasn’t so terrible, because when you’ve lived in the darkness of unbelief, you truly appreciate the light.
And you can be so thankful that God sees through our disguises and recognizes who we truly are, deep inside—his beloved child, washed in the blood of Christ and clothed in the Holy Spirit for all eternity.
Artwork is by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.