Today’s Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent. I wish it meant something to me, but it doesn’t, anymore. I really wish that believing and living in an established religion, that the mere act of walking into a church, gave me the peace that it seems to give some people. But it doesn’t. I wish it were that simple. I’ve tried. Walked in so many churches, opened myself up and almost yelled out, here I am, Lord, I'm yours, and tried to feel something, but…nothing. I’d be faking if I said it did. The quiet is nice. The people, well, a little loopy. They see meaning where I just don’t. God is controlling all. God is taking care of them. (God takes care of the little birds in the field, what makes you think He won’t take care of you? Well, the quick answer is either God thinks more of the effing birds than He does of me, or He doesn’t exist in the first place, at least not in the form that the believers imagine.)
Not that I don’t believe in some sort of greater power. I just think I’m not smart enough to figure it out. I think turning the supreme force in the universe into some God (now why did I capitalize that word? Tell me my Catholic upbringing isn’t ingrained.) made up of three persons, or whatever, is kind of dumbing down whatever it is that controls the universe. Dumbing it down so we humans can understand it. Can’t we just stand back and just marvel? Why do we have to understand everything? Explain it all?
I grew up in an extremely Catholic home. Taught by the Sisters of Mercy (what a misnomer that was!—they had no mercy), a picture of Pope John XXIII hung in the hallway with the palm branch from Palm Sunday tucked behind it, a picture of DaVinci’s Last Supper hung in the kitchen. I don’t know how many crucifixes and statues of the Madonna were around. Let’s just say enough. The home, my life, revolved around the church. It wasn’t that bad, really. I didn’t even think about it. I got up at seven when the church bells rang, went home for lunch at noon when the Angelus rang, and quit playing with my friends at five when the church bells rang again. Fish, or mac and cheese on Friday. That’s what I was, a fish-on-Friday Catholic, and that was fine with me. It was comfortable and was simply a part of my life, like my grandfather’s smelly pipe, and my annoying sister.
When I pray, and I do pray, this is the God I pray to. Old habits. Also, there are no atheists in foxholes.
But once you leave, there’s no going back. The teen years are hard on faith, and the Catholic Church doesn’t like questions, and teens question everything. Just do it. I’ve tried to go back a few times, and each time I would just get hammered by something in the church and think, oh, right, I forgot about that.
Once I went back to Mass on a perfectly normal Sunday and instead of giving a sermon after the Gospel the priest read a letter from the bishop to the congregation. Or cardinal. Somebody. And I remembered how the Church treats you like a child. Why couldn’t you have given me the letter and let me read it myself, and maybe, Father, you could have taken this time in the Mass to give me some spiritual guidance, in the form of a sermon? But you know, the Gospel that day was the same Gospel as the year before, and it will be the same a year to that day. That’s the way the Mass is set up: repetition day in and day out. The priest would have run out of interpretations of the spiritual message long ago…
At least the letter was something new, I suppose.
And you can’t receive Communion unless you’ve repented or gone to Confession or something. You gotta be in the club. And now, when I find myself at a Mass, this is the part of the Mass I’ve learned to relish, at Communion when everyone gets up to receive, and I have to stay in the pew. Once or twice I thought to myself, maybe they’ll just think I’m Jewish. Or Presbyterian. But in the subsequent times I’ve been at a Catholic Mass, I’ve learned to gloat in my sinfulness. Yeah, you bet, I’m a sinner. All of you God-fearing people, if you really want to fear something, fear me, because me, a sinner, is sitting right here in your midst. I’m on a first-name basis with the devil, and as acquainted to sin and sinning as you are to your ritual Mass.
And there’s a really good chance that I’ll see a lot of you sanctimonious hypocrites in the afterlife.
Labels: Action Bob, Action Bob Markle, actionbobmarkle, Ash Wednesday, Catholic Church, John Greiner-Ferris