Predictably, this Halloween some of the most popular costumes were heroes: Spider-Man and Transformers were big. Meanwhile, millions of Americans honored the season by going to the pornographically-violent blockbuster "Saw IV."
But on both scores - hero worship and gore - Halloween gets trumped by the day that follows it: All Saints Day.
Roman Catholics recognize more than 10,000 saints, many of them "patron saints" - saints associated with a group or condition. Some of these are curious:
St. Bernadine of Siena is the patron saint of public relations.
St. Clare of Assisi is the patron saint of television.
Pharmacists, Hairdressers and Skaters all have patron saints.
The patron saint of politicians might sound like the set-up for a joke … until you realize it's St. Thomas More, the English statesman and scholar who got his head chopped off because he refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England.
No one ever accused Thomas More of waffling.
St. Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, refused to offer sacrifice to a pagan god. In return he was tortured with clubs, spikes and, yes, fire … before a stone was tied around his neck and he was thrown in a river.
(I don't know about you, but somewhere between the fire and the stone, I would have found something nice to say about the pagan god.)
St. Lawrence of Rome was famously placed on a gridiron and grilled. According to legend, on the point of death, he said with a smile, "I am done on this side! Turn me over and eat!"
By the way, St. Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks. No joke.
Not all the saints were martyrs, of course. Mother Seton, the American saint, sacrificed a life of wealth to found the Sisters of Charity.
But all these people were radicals, rarely if ever compromising in their commitment to a cause, driven by their faith in God. Believing in something enough to give up all possessions, to be drawn and quartered, to be flayed - there's nothing cuddly, quaint or sweet about that.
Look, I admire Optimus Prime, the heroic Transformer who's dedicated himself wholly to the defeat of the evil Decepticons, so that we here on Earth can live in peace. I would even pray to him. It's just that, I don't think he's real. And even if he is, I'm not sure he can handle the maniac from "Saw."
On the other hand, if there were a patron saint of Transformers, that guy I would take seriously.