Bless Me Father for I Have...What?
You know how on holidays like Easter and Christmas, the Catholic church service is packed with people that only show up a few times a year? That’s me. I’m a Chreaster (Christmas and Easter Mass only – also known as “C and E” Catholics). That’s not totally true; I will show up for baptisms, weddings, and funerals as well. So, I should not be surprised when the Catholic Church makes changes to their services that I’m unaware of. My first surprise came a few years ago when the response to “The Lord be with you” went from “And also with you,” to “And with your spirit”.
That’s okay, I’ve faked my way through worse.
Something happened this weekend, though, that made me stop and think, “Maybe the Catholic Church doesn’t actually have my back.”
Did it ever?
Well, once it did.
My three kids went to a Catholic grammar school. Separated from my wife, Arlene, I received a phone call from her. Frantic (well, angry) she said the priest called and told her we haven’t been paying tuition and our youngest couldn’t return the next semester. The reason? They had billed us incorrectly and now needed to rectify the mistake. She talked to the priest several times, and he insisted we pay the tuition in full immediately, or our son could not return to school.
I made an appointment with the priest, and within 30 seconds, we had an arrangement - he would pay the tuition, and we would pay him back in monthly installments. However, the conversation didn’t end there.
“You wife is very un-reasonable,” he said, “and the messages she left on my machine were just unacceptable.” He leaned forward, and in a hushed tone asked, “Do you want to hear them?”
“No thank you, Father,” I replied, “I already have that voice in my head.”
Then he said what I never thought I’d hear a catholic priest say to a married man, “You have to get away from that woman.”
Now, that is a Catholic church I could stand behind. The one I attended last weekend, not so much.
My brother-in-law, Marty, passed away 10 years ago, and we attended a memorial service for him (One of these days I’d like to write a post about Marty, but I don’t think I could ever do him justice).
As the Mass progressed, I held my own, stumbled over a few unfamiliar phrases until it came time to take communion. Pew by pew we emptied out into the aisle and I stepped up when my turn came. The priest held up the host.
“The Body of Christ” he said.
“Amen,” I replied, my hands cupped, right hand over left, to receive communion.
I started to move left then realized the priest had not put the host into my outstretched hands.
“Are you Catholic?” he asked, host still held high between his thumb and forefinger.
Stunned, my face flushed red, I leaned back towards him and answered “Yes.”
“Have you ever received Communion before?” he asked.
When did the priest turn into the Soup Nazi? (No host for you!)
Again, I answered “Yes” as he went on to explain how to receive communion. He explained that after I say ‘Amen’ I either take the host on my tongue or in my hands. I was still confused, since my hands hung before him, Oliver Twist begging for more gruel.
Eventually, perhaps fearing a lost soul, he placed the host in my hand, and I went on my way. All eyes followed me as I returned to my pew to pray (that this never happens again). When I finished, and sat back, my solicitous family around me whispered, “What did you say to the priest? What did you do?” I had no coherent answer. My nephew told me not to worry about it, that I should give that particular church a poor Yelp review since the priest performed the entire ceremony in open-toed sandals.
Later, at lunch, I was still peppered with questions about why I talked to the priest during communion. I explained, step-by-step, what I had done. Finally, someone ventured a guess about what possibly I did wrong.
“You put your right hand over your left. You should have put your left hand over your right because your left hand is considered pure.”
My left hand is considered pure? I have news for you, Father, not in my house. My left hand has done things that would make the Vatican blush.
At least it was an explanation, but not a good one.
So, I needed to take my right hand out and put my left-hand in. When did receiving Communion turn into the hokey-pokey?
Knowing that, everything would have been okay, if I just turned myself around, because that’s what it’s all about.