at the columbus airport the other day, i asked my grandparents how long it’s been since they had been on a plane. “9 years,” my grandpa answered. this, of course, was well before 9-11. i thought they would be more befuddled with the “new” abundance of security measures, but rather, it was the fact that most suitcases are now, yes that’s right, on wheels. but that is the subject of another blog entirely. it has been 9 years since my grandparents have been on a plane, and it’s been about the same since i have sat through an entire catholic mass.
although my family has gone to church on most christmas eves, it’s usually overpacked and we’re standing in the back and can’t hear or see much of anything. it’s more of some physically close together time as we squeeze into whatever corner we can. tonight, i broke my nine year “fast.” tonight i attended mass because it’s what my grandparents do, every week. well, i gotta tell you: same old station, same old song. verbatim. you’d think they would try to change it up a bit, just to reduce the number of grateful (and audible) sighs that ripple through the crowd after the preist’s final blessing. but, alas, they are a big fan of the rerun; i just hope someone is getting paid some hefty residuals.
my grandparents; my grandmother especially, are devout catholics. it was drilled into their heads for years and years and years. tonight before church, my mom reminded me that they are in their 80’s and that i should grin and bear it for their sake. my mom is the bridge between my grandparents and i: she understands, to a certain extent (as a function of being raised catholic) how important their religion is to them, and furthermore, how important it is for any of their descendants to comply with the rules of that religion (you know, to get into heaven?). on the other hand, even though i know on some level how important it is to them, i can’t quite understand why i can’t say that i am not a catholic and that i do not believe in those traditions. i’m not ashamed of not attending mass religiously; i’m happy about my life and the way that i treat people in this world. it has nothing to do with confession and eucharist and guilt and latin. but, i love my mom and i trusted that for some reason i may never fully understnad, i should shut up and go – which is essentially what she’s doing for them.
after church, we went out for a bite to eat at sand bar (a fabulous, local marco island jewel). my grandparents actually had a beer or a beer and a half each – amazing! – and we got into what i thought was a fairly candid discussion about religion. it started with my grandma raving about some new young priest at their church at home, and how funny he is. he told a story one sunday about how, as a child, he and his siblings laughed at their father when he fumbled over a line in the “our father” while praying a rosary. as a result, his mother told them that they would all have to pray another 20 hail mary’s and some more “our father’s.” the parish thought this was quite comical, as did my grandma when she relayed the story. i know i was supposed to stay quiet and go along with the catholic stuff she siad (per my mom’s request), but i couldn’t stay quiet on this one. instead i asked, “isn’t is strange how the church endorses praying as a wonderful way to communicate with god, yet that same praying is consistently used as a form of punishment?”
my grandpa and mom immediately agreed. my grandma agreed because they agreed. later, my mom and i talked about it. we talked about how she grew up in a “public” catholic school; how the nuns would beat a kid’s head into the chalkboard if he didn’t know his vowels; how they would get in trouble for not kneeling at the right time; how they had to attend confession every TWO weeks. my question: what the hell is an eleven year old doing that is so bad that she must repent over a rosary? how are those things connected? my mom told me that she used to fabricate sins to tell the priest, since you had to have something to say. she would say “i fought with my sister ten times last week.” what?! please tell me that everyone sees a problem with this. is anyone logical anymore? my mom, as a scared and brainwashed child, had to lie to a priest about “bad” things she never did in order to be a good catholic. there are so many things so severely wrong with that picture.
i strive to be a good and decent person. it has nothing to do with a set of religious rules of any kind; it has to do with human nature. some god out somewhere probably created everything, but that god isn’t telling us to regurgitate meaningless phrases for one hour each week in order to pass the test and go to heaven. at least a god wouldn’t do that in my reality. i aspire to be a kind and loving human being. i don’t need a church to tell me how to do that. i do what naturally feels right. i want to make days brighter and to appreciate every moment that i have with those whom i love. no, there are no sacraments or rosaries involved, but there is true love and compassion and a good heart behind it. that’s what matters to me.