October 31 isn't only about ghosts and ghouls.
More importantly, it marks an important event that happened 495 years ago, from which Protestants, Catholics, secular humanists, and followers of all other religions derive benefit even to this day.
On the eve of Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a priest of the Augustinian order, nailed an essay to the doors of the Wittenberg cathedral in Germany. It was a 95-point critique of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church of his day.
The tract sent shock waves throughout the Catholic world, marking a major milestone in a continent-wide movement known as the Reformation.
That movement didn't start and end with Luther. There were many courageous men before and after him who advocated for political and religious reformation in countries all across Europe, many of whom were put to death for their cause.
The Reformation brought about major changes in governance and society in the 16th and 17th centuries, not the least of which was the advancement of the principle of freedom of conscience. Not only did it establish a new branch of Christianity that was detached from the levers of political power, it also triggered a series of positive reforms within the Catholic church.
The Reformation and the freedom it brought was a necessary precursor to the Enlightenment and the classical liberal foundation of Western democracies.
Many nations regard October 31 as a national holiday to mark Reformation Day.
Perhaps, while you take your children or grandchildren from door to door with candy and costumes, think of a troublesome, impetuous priest who was an important agent of the freedom you - and the kids - now enjoy.
Neil Dykstra, Langley
@ Copyright 2013