I wrote this about a week ago. I’m going to preface this post by saying I have absolutely no idea where I’m going with this one. It might end up having a point, it might end up just being a brain dump. I almost added a “if I offend anyone, I’m sorry,” but that’s not entirely true. If I offend anyone, well, no one’s putting a gun to your head and telling you to read this. Wait, someone did? Who? What a great friend they are! Tell them thank you! Aw, you guys!
Yesterday, a kid I’ve known since he was 5 years old became a priest in the Catholic church. Okay, so I guess he’s not still technically a kid, but he grew up with my brother and to me my brother will perpetually be about 18 years old, max. Anyway, this morning I went to church with my folks to see him celebrate his first Mass.
I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school for 13 years. In college, I was part of a smallish group of Catholic students on a predominantly Protestant campus. We didn’t have a Newman Center or anything, but I was basically part of what would be its equivalent. Then a series of things started clicking in my brain and I sort of…stopped. I stopped being Catholic. I stopped being Christian. I stopped being anything.
I could go into detail the deep conversations I’ve had with myself in the intervening years, but I’ll just leave it at this for now: I’m still figuring it out (I think that’s kind of the point, right? But I digress). No way do I consider myself Catholic, and I’m only sort of testing out the “Christian” thing again. So fast forward to this morning. I find myself in the church where I basically grew up, watching a man who I watched grow up, and the whole thing was very moving…and thought-provoking…on so many levels.
Juanita, thankfully, didn’t press the church issue during my most hard-core atheist days. She did, however, make it a point to say she was lighting candles on my behalf when she went each week. Ouch, Mom. She still casually asks if I’d like to join her every once in awhile, in that half-joking-but-not-really-joking way and I half-jokingly-but-not-really-jokingly say no. But for once, when I heard about D’s Mass (dude, am I going to have to start calling him Father So-and-So? No. Freaking. Way), I asked if she was going, and asked if I could come.
I’m certain she stroked out, right there, but God love ‘er, she hid her reaction well.
Honestly, I half-expected some sort of Great Epiphany when I walked inside that church – like I would suddenly be overwhelmed with a feeling of Home and Belonging. Wouldn’t that be poetic? But that didn’t happen. Instead, I superficially participated – but with reverence, of course – and spent a fair amount of time wondering how to gracefully not go up for Communion (a few years ago, I attended a friend’s wedding – we were close during my Super-Duper Catholic years – and I accidentally caused sort of a scene when I didn’t go up and everyone thought I was, like, ill or something). But the time came, and I sort of slipped away, and that was that.
That was that. It was strange participating on a sort of anthropological-observer level in something in which I used to find so much… meaning? importance? comfort? I don’t know the correct word, because I can’t quite recall the feeling.
Like I said, I’m still figuring it out, and I’m honestly enjoying the process and learning a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. In some ways, it’s good that I went to that Mass. As much as it might kill Juanita, it helped me realize that – at this point in my life – it’s just not what I want. Or maybe even what I need.
Reason #1844 to move to Oklahoma: We could go (or not go) to church together. Write that down.