A Catholic Halloween in Salem

A Catholic Halloween in Salem

It was a perfectly interesting weekend here in Salem, Mass. (I hope to have some pictures up later.) On Friday, Halloween itself, the city was mobbed as expected. The weather was grand with temperatures in the 70s.

In case, you didn’t see my earlier mention, a group of us had planned a little light evangelization in the midst of the bacchanalia that is Halloween in the “Witch City.” My parish, Immaculate Conception, is in the midst of the downtown and so my brother-in-law Peter, who organizes a big Catholic music festival every summer, put together in the church’s parking lot a little All Saints Eve concert we called Saint Fest. We had a small stage and several acts. They were all good, but in my opinion, the best was Monica. (I missed her whole name and I will have to ask Pete for it.) She’s a new artist, but she’s got a very nice pop sound that drew in all kinds of people.

In addition, we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church, with a capella musical accompaniment by Joseph Moorman, a real nice guy along with being a very talented singer in the operatic and Broadway vein.

My job that night consisted mostly of watching over the front door of the church, telling people that there were no public restrooms, and making sure people were well-behaved. I should tell you at this point that there were more than 50,000 people visiting Salem that night, effectively doubling the population of the city, and most of them appeared to be on the far side of inebriation. Of course, you want to hear about the weird stuff, so I will oblige.

At the beginning of the outdoor concert, some guy walked by on the street with a three-foot crucifix around his neck and another in his hand, screaming epithets at us. Another guy yelled, “Priests rape altar boys.” One fellow, unsteady on his feet and apparently homeless, decided to accompany the musicians on his harmonica. Another guy in green hair rushed the stage only to stop short and start waving his arms and legs in what must have been his idea of dancing.

At one point a crowd of about 50 witches—the “real” thing, Wiccans, not people dressed up for the part—marched by on their way to Gallow’s Hill where some of the people convicted in the Witch Trials were hanged. The irony is that the Salem Witch Trials are known for people dying because they were falsely accused of witchcraft, yet the Wiccans attempt to claim them as their own. Odd.

And then I almost had to bodily remove a guy from the front steps of the church. He was in his early to mid-fifties I would say and was wearing the brown cowl of a monk. He walked to the top of the stair (they’re about 10 feet tall), and then lifted up the front of his robe to the amusement of the crowd who took his picture. I came out and stood next to him (while the crowd ordered me out of the picture) and calmy told him that he was being disrespectful and that he should leave. He asked me if they were my steps and I said, “Yes, they’re my steps. Now get off them. Now.” Hey, as a Catholic, in general, and a parishioner, in particular, they are kind of “my” steps. He moved down to the bottom to continue to his posing, but I shushed him away. So he stood on the sidewalk and posed with a guy dressed up as a red devil. I think the irony escaped him.

In general, though, I think the event was a success. We didn’t have huge numbers, but people came in a steady stream into the church to stop and pray a few minutes, out of the craziness of the night for a few moments of peace. Most commonly, it was people who were not native Americans—to judge by their accents—although there was one red velvet Elvis and a few people in their late teens or early twenties who peeled off the from their groups of bewildered friends for a minute. Good for them.

Saturday night was completely different. That was a concert to celebrate the Feast of All Souls, sponsored by Our Lady of Hope Charities. Joe Moorman performed again in a beautiful and moving event where each song was dedicated to the deceased loved one of a sponsor. The charity is run by my two good friends, Kristelle Angelli and Paul Goyette. Paul is my housemate. They founded it to build churches in Third World countries for people who have no physical spiritual home. Paul had already built a church in India and now they’re building one in Rwanda. Did I tell you I have cool friends?

By the way, I hope to have pictures up later.