“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us” (St. Augustine).
When I was a kid, the Collegeville company produced chintzy jumpsuit-style Halloween costumes that, come nightfall on Oct. 31, would be paraded in droves through the streets of my Bronx neighborhood. Each Halloween had its “it” costume, so depending on which character or celebrity was popular that particular year, you might be unnerved by a gang of Elvises or a crowd of Caspers or a flap of Flying Nuns trick-or-treating their way down the street.
I myself never had any interest in following the costume trends. All I ever wanted to be for Halloween was a cat.
Early in my trick-or-treating days, my mom bought me a Collegeville black cat costume, complete with a flimsy (albeit flame-proof) jumpsuit and a mask with glow-in-the-dark trim. I sported the costume for a few Halloweens, and when the jumpsuit no longer fit, I wore the cat mask with whatever clothing seemed suitable.
One year I paired the mask with a party dress, explaining to my puzzled peers that I was Princess Kitty. Another year I complemented the mask with a vest, a sash and a dollar-store sword, and called myself a Pirate Pussycat. That getup was even harder to make sense of. After all, it would be three and a half decades before Captain Jack Sparrow popularized “pirate chic.”
After years of wearing iterations of the same costume, it would take something drastic for me to switch out my cat guise for a different Halloween look. That “something” was discovered one October afternoon, during a visit to Nat’s Toy Store.
My mom and I had stopped into Nat’s after school. And there, tucked into the display of Halloween paraphernalia, was the prettiest mask I’d ever seen. It was a masquerade-style confection glittering in powder pink and embellished with tiny pearls and white lace trim.
Suddenly, I didn’t want to wear a cat costume for Halloween. I wanted to wear that mask. I imagined myself on Halloween night: gorgeous, glittering and gliding from house to house, collecting both candy and admiring glances amid a throng of swooning Snoopys and besotted Batmans.
My mom was understandably reluctant to spend $2 – or, in today’s prices, $15.72 – on a fancy mask, but she relented after a week’s worth of pleading.
So at last I stood, mask in hand, at my bedroom dresser. With my eyes closed, I slipped the mask over my head, then adjusted it against my prescription eyeglasses. I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror. I was not gorgeous.
Pulled taut against the clunky eyeglasses, the delicate mask was distorted by the glasses’ bottle-bottom lenses. The result was startling and eerie. The mask that I had thought would make me beautiful ended up having the opposite effect. I could have been one of the Sand People crashing a Mardi Gras party.
St. Catharine of Siena once asked, “What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body? Why? For God is in love with all those things and He might weep when they are gone.”
Does that mean that God loves us in all of our imperfection? Yes. He’s like a smitten lover who is charmed even by our flaws (think: epic nearsightedness). We don’t need to mask our imperfect selves in an effort to be more lovable. What’s more, God will never weary of us, any more than He can weary of watching His world awaken each morning. And He doesn’t play favorites: His “it” creation is every one of us.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10).
“The Catholic Storyteller” is a monthly column by Celeste Behe, a parishioner of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Hellertown. Find her online at www.CelesteBehe.com.