On Being an Easter Catholic
April 5, 2010 § 2 Comments
If I believed in reincarnation, I would come back as a hippie. But probably not a hippie from the sixties because I don’t smoke–my asthma makes it difficult to inhale–and I don’t really believe in burning my bra and I’m too much of a goody two-shoes to be considered an anarchist.
But if I was reincarnated I would definitely come back as one of those 20th century hippies that the generations before me look at me and think, “Pfft, wannabe. She’s not a real hippie. Now back in the day, I was a hippie…” because I definitely wish I had experienced Woodstock, I love wearing my long hair ironed perfectly straight with just the ends pulled back, I’m a firm advocate of tie-dye (in moderation, of course) and I think bell bottom jeans are a gift from the gods. I’m also an unrealistic believer in attaining world peace and I think that making love, not war, is really the best that you could do.
I’m given a lot of flack for my hippie-esque attitude, especially for the silver metal peace sign I wear on a leather cord around my wrist. If I have one more “Christian” come up to me and raise hell because the peace sign is really an anarchist symbol of a broken cross that Jesus died upon, I think I might just scream.
Every year for lent, I give up Catholicism for 40 days. No, I’m not a practicing Catholic, and as a hippie I supposedly practice my own incense-burning karmaic journey of religion. So giving up Catholicism seems easy and practical.
But this year I decided to celebrate Easter by attending Catholic mass on Sunday. The way I figure it, if Jesus is good enough to give me a three-day weekend, I might as well pay him back somehow. And if this peace sign I wear around my wrist really is a symbol of anarchy, what better place to come to my senses than at the Catholic church the day Jesus rose from the dead.
I went alone, wearing my least-frayed organic threaded bell bottoms and a white eyelet peasant top. I had twisted my long hair into a bun at the nape of my neck–in attempts to look more religious– and donned my feet with these black plastic flats my mother insisted on buying me for my birthday last year. “You need to have something that makes you look saner than what those rags of shoes you wear around your feet do. You’re never gonna meet a man with those things,” she wrote on my birthday card. I thought that if Jesus was good enough to walk around in dirty sandals all day, then it was good enough for me, but through the years they have developed this gut-wrenching smell, so I opted for the flats instead, even though they pinched my toes and blistered my heels.
I sat at the back of the church–do Catholics go to church?–so that if the weight of my sins (and un-Catholicness) started disturbing the people around me, I could make a fast getaway. I got there early enough to snag an aisle seat, and I tried hard to look self-involved so that no one took notice of me. I succeeded, until some old white-haired guy in a long robe walked up toward the stage holding a large square book in the air right at his forehead, and all I could think about were the monks in Monty Python and I was hoping that the guy would recite latin in a deep voice and smack himself in the head with the book. To my dismay, however, it did not happen, and the older couple that stood next to me gave me dirty looks as I tried to quieten my snickering.
So I sobered up and participated in the sitting, the standing, the sitting, the kneeling, the standing, the kneeling, the sitting, and so on and so forth. I tried hard to listen to what the priest was saying, but he was Indian and his thick accent made it difficult to understand him.
I learned that Catholic churches are the best example of oral traditions because when the Priest would say something the entire Catholic congregation would recite a particular phrase back to him. I just opened and moved my mouth to pretend I was talking, because I didn’t want my non-Catholic upbringing to be outed.
There was a family of five that sat in front of me, and I entertained myself during the service by watching the two girls, dressed in pink, opening and closing the latches on their purses and rearranging the medley of stuff that was inside–a tube of chapstick, a couple of quarters, easter candy, etc. And the little boy who sat next to them in a suit and tie kept pulling at his collar uncomfortably.
And that’s when I noticed the shifting of the rest of the congregation: an older man down in front kept crossing and recrossing his ankles; a teenage girl to the far left of me had hidden her phone in her lap and kept checking it for messages; and to the far right sat a younger couple who were trying very hard not to touch each other. I grinned at this. And I heard the Priest say, “We are all covered by the death of Jesus Christ,” or something like that, and I realized that we really are all the same. Catholic people are just people and hippies are just people and mothers are just people and teenagers are just people and all of us wished Catholicism was a little more entertaining than what were were experiencing at that particular moment.
So instead of sneaking out the back during the communion, I got in line with everyone else, ate the body of Christ with everyone else, and drank the blood of Jesus from the communal wine cup with everyone else and as I crossed myself I said a short prayer of thanks for peace and love to that plastic figure who was hanging from the even more plastic cross at the front of the church.
And then I walked right out of that church knowing that making love and not war is a great motto to live by, and that I never had to be Catholic again.