Moving It Along
An excerpt from the soon-to-be-published book, Mad Rumblings
I went to a baptism yesterday. It’s been quite a while since I set foot in a Catholic church. Same place. Still lots of pomp and circumstance. All about the ritual—the order of things—like God is watching and keeps score if the priest flubs something.
Fortunately, this particular priest performing the ceremony had a sense of humor and kept most from passing out. There were eight families having their babies christened. Sort of like ships are done, except that water and oil are used instead of a bottle of champagne. The parish had a full slate this particular day, with twenty families having a first communion the hour before.
I still couldn’t help but feel nothing has changed. The whole world has come into the era of technology, and people are constantly updating themselves. Not the Church. Same ol’, same ol.’ Dogma needs strict adherence. Like a courtroom, any deviation might cause the sacrament to be ‘thrown out’ at a later date on appeal.
One of the blessings the priest gave involved oil being applied to the chest of the infants. Here are these three-month-olds, nice and snuggled, warm and comfy. Then parents have to take off part of the little ones’ shirts. And eight babies to a man start to cry. They’re all, “Hey, what the heck are you doing? I’m cold now! Don’t do that! Wah, wah.” The boys cry louder—“Wait a minute. Two days after I’m born, you start ripping flesh from my most sensitive area—and now you’re going to start taking off my clothes? Get me the heck out of here!”
Well, the baby boys all survived the ceremony, though I nearly fell asleep by the end. That get me the heck outta here! sentiment will be carried on for years to come. Most people’s thoughts, men in particular, as they step into a Catholic church for any kind of ceremony are, Get me outta here. How soon is this over? NFL Countdown starts at 11:00. How long does this last?
The answer of course is anywhere from forty five minutes to an hour. The time difference depending on what kind of priest is ‘performing.’ The young, hip guys fly through the readings and prayers. Forty one minutes with no dilly dallying. The ‘it’ll push an hour’ old guys take their time, leaning towards Eucharistic Prayer Number One where they name every saint ever anointed (Nabar the Lame, Marion of the Sheep, Herman the Munster…)
Those old-timers are the same guys you avoid at all costs when going to confession. The smart people, like those who look for the express lane at the grocer’s, scope out which priest is in which confessional before lining up. Again, young, hip guy priests get their business. Less guilt. More empathy. And, most importantly, less penance. I’ve always felt that 23 Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Acts of Contrition add insult to injury. I know it’s like getting a ‘prayer time-out’ as punishment, but don’t you think you could cut me a little slack? I already feel guilty about baring my soul to a stranger.
During the ceremony, the “Sign O’ Peace” (shaking hands and bidding peace to another person) would be the first ‘cut’ should the Church ever decide to shorten things. It stands for something worthy, but no one likes to do it. It’s like people are afraid to shake hands due to fear of disease. If you put out your hand in a friendly manner, you get a look like you’re asking someone for money. Maybe the Church should hand out medical gloves by the holy water when you walk in.
I also don’t think the Church is doing itself any favors by not allowing women to be priests. We’ve passed the new millennium, Benedict. Equal rights/equal pay. If we can get the South by ‘Fountain for Whites Only’ you can do this. Besides, humans can’t do the abstinence thing so you’re turning away good candidates who are at least being truthful to themselves.
And not allowing divorced people communion? How many disregard this rule? Only way around this one is annulment. So—you can be married twenty years with three kids—and say it never happened, or it doesn’t count. If they want more marriages to last, maybe they should consider more intense ‘Marriage Ed Courses’ before you get your ‘license’ and can ‘drive’ so as to limit ‘accidents.’
And then there’s the Church telling politicians they can’t receive communion if they support abortion rights or contraception. I’m not even getting into church versus state. I just want to know if the Pope is available for babysitting Saturday night.
Catholics are told that the mortal sin of adultery applies to birth control. The only approved method for married couples (sans abstinence) is the ‘rhythm method.’ What a total joke. I look at my calendar weeks in advance, thinking, How am I going to do that? I want to attend a soccer game and they want me to plan for right after a cycle when the female is least fertile? Ain’t gonna happen. So every time they use some sort of birth control, it’s another reportable mortal sin?
Hey, I have respect for anyone who goes to any church in the interest of faith. It’s like out of shape people going to the gym—at least they’re trying. I just don’t think the diehard Catholics should think they have an ‘exclusive’ on Heaven and everyone else has eternity with Satan.