It’s been a crazy and sometimes heavy week for me. I’ve got another writing project that is really taking up my creative mojo. So, just to make sure I’m not neglecting my little experiment, I thought I’d drag out something I wrote a couple of years ago that still makes me giggle.
Normally, someone dies… you write about their death… and their life.
I think we all know that I am not normal. So instead, I’m going to write about an obsession of my life, Catholicism.
I was raised in a Free Will Southern Baptist home. My mother was raised Methodist, but that was not something that was discussed openly. You know those Methodist, they’re just one step away from being papists. Being raised in an environment where ritual was the devil and veneration of the virgin Mary and any such ‘saints’ was considered idolatry at its finest… is it any wonder that I developed an obsession with all things Catholic? Besides, as everyone should know, orgasms taste better with a rosary shoved in your mouth.
Prior to my Japanese school girl obsession, there was my little catholic school boy obsession. Hey, when you’re growing up in the south east, the idea of altar boys is pretty exotic… and totally fell in line with my overriding need to seduce and corrupt. Oddly enough, yes, I have married one Jesuit trained catholic school boy. But, I can hardly say I’ve corrupted him. It was a mutual corruption of acceptance.
I’m rambling. I do that. My point.
Yesterday I attended my first actual Catholic… thing. Was it a mass? A funeral mass? Something. Catholics have names for every bloody thing and I can’t remember them all. I’m too busy asking John why people keep bowing at the front of the church. And why does that priest have a throne? Wait… I shouldn’t call him priest? Monsignor? Jesus fuck… too much shit to keep straight.
On the Monsignor. I liked the guy. He seemed genuinely concerned and loved filled and kind. And when he spoke, if I took out all the references to his God and Church… then I could really get behind his message. But, I had no fucking clue what a Monsignor was. So, I asked Mr. Jesuit Trained. His response? “He’s a level 10 priest.” And yes, that did actually explain it all to me.
On baptism. Catholics sprinkle and call it a baptism. In the world I grew up in, if you didn’t come up choking from under the water, you didn’t love Jesus enough. But that priest… Monsignor… slung his little tiny water sprinkler mace around and called it a second baptism. It was a right pretty speech and a nice bit of ceremony… but all I could think of was teaching those altar boys how it’s done by holding their heads under water in the fountain. By the way, crazy baptismal fount (aka Jesus’ Eternal Water Fountain)… made me want to pee the whole time.
On altar boys. I don’t know. I thought they’d be sweet and cute. Likely to lead me to dirty thoughts about confession booths. But first of all, they were baby boys. Hey, in movies they aren’t THAT young. And… they were creepy. Seriously. Creepy. Their expressionless faces. The way they moved without direction or seeming thought, just silent and obedient without any of the usual signs of life in a kid their age. I found it utterly unnerving. C’mon… just shuffle one foot. Something!
On the magic book of spells. That’s what I’m calling the book the Monsignor carried with him and read from. It was not a bible, that’s for damn sure. But the cover was pretty and he was always marking the page he was on with one of those ribbons. And all I could think was, “He’s checking to see if he memorized enough Cure Lights for the day. He may have to convert one of those to Sanctuaries.”
On speaking in unison. Catholics LOVE speaking in unison. And I am not talking AME church testifying or calling out. No, hive mind speaking in unison. Every time I thought I’d caught on to when to speak, they’d do something else to totally throw me off. How do you know when to say “Amen” and when it’s “Oh lord hear our prayer” or some other random thing? They busted out the Lord’s Prayer at one point. Great, I thought, I got this one. I know it. But then they stopped before the end… and THEN threw a Hail Mary in there. At that point, I was fairly sure there was a sign over my head that said, “Girl without lips moving is Baptist.”
On the Eucharist. Whoa. There was some crazy shit going on there. Kneeling before taking bread out of a box. Singing a song to the bread. And when it was finally a communion with real wine (Welch’s Grape Juice has always been the taste of Christ’s blood to me), no one drank it! Thankfully, I didn’t have to cause a scene or be a hypocrite… and instead of taking communion I was simply blessed. I’m pretty sure that means I will burst into flames if I step inside of a Baptist church now.
On transubstantiation. This led to me making a totally inappropriate comment to John during a funeral mass. Or really, during any mass. “You know, I’ve taken communion before… but I’ve never tasted the actual body of Christ.” Fighting back the giggles between us was so hard. And then saying ‘Body of Christ’ stuck that damn song from South Park in my head. Faith +1!
On kneeling and bowing. I get it. God is really cool and we should kneel to his coolness and bow before the image of Jesus twisting horribly on the cross. Except… listen… God doesn’t live at the front of the church. And the kneeling… well… listen, my mother slapped me once for the way I took communion, tilting my head back like I was giving Jesus head and loving it. So, it’s no wonder that while in the middle of all that damned kneeling for God… it was all I could do to fight the urge to put my knees shoulder width apart, head up, eyes down, shoulders straight, wrists crossed at the small of my back. That… is how you really tell God that you love him.
On the censer. You know, I always thought this would be one of the coolest parts of mass. The priest swinging this cool censer about and the scent of incense filling the church. But, I also always imagined that the incense would smell… different. I don’t know, like Baby Jesus burps or something. But instead, it just gave me flash backs to smoking up in Shawn’s basement and playing Playstation all night. Dude, who let the hippies into mass?
On the hymnal. Which they referred to as a song book. Oh dear god! I thought white Baptists sounded unhappy when singing. At least their hymnals are full of blood and gore and the fear of demons. But this was… Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill, making fun of the C of E.
Now, I am certainly not knocking Catholicism… at least not any more than I knock any organized religion. But the culture clash was just leading me to amusing observations. And, my presence there and John’s growth away from the church, led him to view things as an outsider for the first time. I think it really clicked on a personal level for him, what Protestantism was about. It reminded me that though I’ve grown a whole hell of a lot… my roots are still my roots. And it made for a long interesting (and stupidly funny) conversation on the ride home.