You Might Be Surprised Where I Went Last Night

LarryKingShowLast night I went to church.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Our younger boy went through Confirmation, and we all got dressed up and did our time in the pews, to show support.  He’s been taking classes for years, literally years, and it all came to fruition last night.  He’s an official member of the club now.

I’m not religious, and bring nothing to the table.  Toney was raised Catholic, and isn’t very religious either.  But when the boys were young she and I discussed it, and agreed they should be exposed to religion, in a casual way.  Just so they have some sort of understanding…  Then they’re free to do with it what they want.

When I was a kid I was sent to a Baptist church, probably for the same reasons, and disliked it with gusto.  It likely had more to do with the other kids who attended that church (shitheads, all), than anything they were teaching there.  But I stopped going the moment my folks lifted the mandate.  My brother continued, but I pumped my fist in the air, and celebrated my freedom.

So, it was an easy decision.  The boys would attend Catholic church, supervised by Toney, and I’d read the paper on Sunday mornings, drink coffee, and power-fart into the upholstery.  It was a situation I could live with.

Neither boy seems to hate it like I did, but I wouldn’t say they’re overly enthusiastic, either.  Whatever.  It might mean very little to them, or it could bring them some comfort in the future.  I’m cool with it, either way.

I have a few notes about last night’s big ceremony.  At this point I’ve been to plenty of Catholic services, but still feel like a clueless outsider.  I’m always uneasy, because there’s so much audience participation: shaking hands with strangers, sitting and standing, doing the wave…

When I lived in California I attended a Jewish funeral, and they handed me one of those little hats when I came in.  I was a basket case, because I didn’t know what I should do with it.  If I put it on, would the people who know I’m not Jewish be offended?  Or is it a bigger affront to refuse to sport the thing?  It was 60 minutes of sweating, and feeling awkward.

And it’s a very similar feeling at a Catholic mass — all that kneeling on the flip-down kneel-bar, and whatnot.  I have no idea what’s going on.  Although I am a little more relaxed than I used to be.

Let’s get started, shall we?

There was an old lady sitting a few rows in front of us, with a huge ass and a dress that looked like the backdrop of the old Larry King show on CNN.  You know, the various-sized multi-colored dots with a black background?  I kept expecting Larry to take a seat behind her butt cheeks, and start interviewing “the great Henry Winkler,” or whatever.  Unfortunately, it never happened.

Another old woman, sitting directly in front of me, had her head on a swivel the entire time.  She CONTINUOUSLY turned to see who was coming through the door, and seemed far more interested in who was there (and who wasn’t), than what was happening up front.  I guess some things are universal, across all religions?

I’d say about twenty percent of the people in attendance were dressed like they were at a movie or a pig pickin’, instead of a church service.  I saw one guy in flip-flops.  I’m no fan of getting all trussed-up in dress clothes, it’s well-documented, but sometimes it’s necessary.  Sheesh.  It felt disrespectful.  This ain’t a Jimmy Buffett concert, dick.

The Bishop was elderly, and his voice alternated between very loud and very quiet – sometimes several times within the same sentence.  He told a confusing story about a Jesus statue in France, which was missing both its hands because of Nazi bombs.  I didn’t really get it.  Then he talked at length about a boy and a rattlesnake, and drugs and alcohol.  Yeah, I don’t know.  And whenever I’d start to nod off, he’d SHOUT some random word, and snap me back to attention.  He seemed nice and grandfatherly, with a side order of intimidating.

There was a lot of call & response.  They recited the Lord’s Prayer, but stopped in the middle.  The crowd knew precisely where to put on the brakes, the priest interjected something there, and they cranked it back up again.  It’s all very well choreographed, and I’ve missed almost all of the rehearsals.

At one point they were ringing a tiny bell, and doing something with napkins and jewel-encrusted chalices.  An altar boy was there holding a walking stick, or somesuch.  Incense was pumping, and bells were now ringing outside.  It was a whirlwind of activity.  Then they offered Communion, which lasted a while, and a man finally shouted something along the lines of, “This mass is over!”  Very cool.  It reminded me of “Elvis has left the building.”

And here’s a conversation that happened, as we walked to the car:

Toney:  That was pretty wild, but I think [the older boy’s] Confirmation was even more flamboyant and theatrical.

Me:  Yeah, didn’t they release a falcon, or something?

Toney:  That was at Medieval Times, in Myrtle Beach.

Me:  Oh, yeah.  I get confused.

The four of us went to dinner, Toney and I had a couple of beers when we got home, and I watched TV with the boys.  And I’m pretty sure the rattlesnake in the Bishop’s story was meant to represent people like Daniel Tosh.  Heh.

So, there you go.  That’s how I spent my Wednesday evening.  I had to burn a vacation day, but that’s alright.  I’m always manufacturing more.

beerSee you guy again soon.

Have a great day!

Now playing in the bunker
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  1. Melissa says

    My late grandmother was very religious and every weekend she would take my brother and I to church. That lasted until she died when I was 11 and I’ve never been back. Never latched on to religion and it’s safe to say I can’t stand the entire practice of organized religion now. But, if other people like it and it brings them comfort, then hallelujah brotha’ and I’m glad they’re happy. Just don’t preach to me and we’re all good.

  2. says

    You’d not like our church then, I guess. We can always tell the newcomers by who shows up in a suit.

    Congratulations to the new inductee! Is there a secret handshake or something?

  3. The 4th Stooge says

    My maternal grandmother offered to take us to church, but since she was the LEAST religious person I’ve ever known, she might’ve been trying to get me to shut up about finding “one of those Blues Brothers churches.”

    I never believed in God, especially when I was taking Geometry–never mind my older sister had the same class 5 years before, had the same teacher, had the same book, and got a goddamned A in the course, even my dumb ass knew that she couldn’t prove a proof to save her life. I wish I was one of those people who learn for the test and keep what they need, throwing the rest away. My dumb ass was pulling all-nighters and praying to any God that would listen. None answered, so, I got that C- because the teacher felt sorry for me. Hey, if God was a 64 year old woman who smelled like unfiltered Camels, who am I to judge?

  4. chill says

    I always found church tiresome, but we had an organist who was this weird old man who was into Bach, which I dug a lot. He played preludes, fugues and toccatas before and after the service. On a pipe organ! Cool as shit.

    I even went so far as to become an altar boy, until one time I was overdressed in an overheated church – passed out and cracked my head on the marble altar steps. I quit soon after that. Nowadays I only go for weddings and funerals.

    And BTW, forth? No way.

  5. Kevindust says

    That just might be the best, most well rounded interpretation of organized religion that I have ever read. It may not be for me but if it brings comfort and peace to other people, then good for them. My grandparents were weekly church going Catholics and I am thankful for the experiences we had on Sunday mornings when I stayed with them. Mostly, I enjoyed when my uncle Ray played guitar in church.

    Don’t get me started on my aunt, the Jehovah Witness. She has no common sense at all, it’s sad really. She was visiting and she took issue when my daughter was watching a documentary on Netflix about dinosaurs. She literally left the room in a huff.

  6. MikeFromLI says

    “At this point I’ve been to plenty of Catholic services, but still feel like a clueless outsider. ”

    Not to bum you out but you are considered even worse than that by the people who run that chuch. To them you are some guy living with Toney bringing her shame and sin and eternal damnation. Ask a priest or the bishop about it some time – they’re a fun bunch those catholics.

  7. sluggy says

    Good thing you no longer have to attend re-education classes and sign a contract that when you, the non-Catholic, wed a Catholic you MUST raise any offspring as Catholic like my mom had to do back in the 50’s before she married my father.
    Of course, mom was in charge of supporting us in the religious stuff while my “good Catholic” father napped on the sofa every Sunday. He was a real good Easter Catholic….never missed that 1 service every year.

    I love God….I am just not crazy about any of his Fan Clubs.

  8. dto says

    Mass was in Latin when I was a kid. I was disappointed when I heard they changed that years later. Kinda like how I felt when the American League adopted the Designated Hitter rule. Took a little shine off the whole affair. Priests no longer have to speak Latin and pitchers don’t have to bat. What’s next. Strippers don’t do the pole anymore? Is nothing sacred?

    Years ago I thought that If I ever considered jumping back into some type of organized religion…I’d have to go with the Holy Rollers. They seem like such a wacky, fun bunch.

    • chill says

      Designated Hitter is a modern abomination. It means pitchers are not actually baseball players anymore. By that logic I shouldn’t have to quote labor prices anymore just because I’m not good at it.

  9. Henderson says

    I’m going to send the Missionaries by your house. Look for white shirts and bicycles.

    I was thinking of checking out Jehovah’s Witnesses. I hear they have great knockers.

  10. Nezrite says

    I’m a fallen-away Unitarian, which probably means I’m about a baby-step away from painting myself blue and living in a cave, but I’m taken aback by how people dress for church these days. I still remember a new dress, gloves and an Easter hat for Easter…I’m not saying bring back gloves and patent leather shoes, but fer chrissake, maybe some socks?

  11. bikerchick says

    When I was a kid, my parents demanded I go to Sunday school. So, without fail, I went each and every Sunday while Dad snoozed on the couch and Mom sat at the dining room table drinking coffee and writing letters to friends and relatives. The only time they ever went to church was for a wedding. For a while, I was even in the choir and attended a few weekend Sunday school camps. I was probably about 10 yrs old or there abouts.

    I dated a guy during mr senior year of high school and a while after graduation whose mother would call us from church on a Sunday morning to see where we were and why we weren’t there. “If you have the energy to go out all night on Saturdays, then you have the energy to come to Sunday meetin’ “. I hated that bible beatin bitch. She’d talk and gossip about everyone in church while writing a $200 check for the collection basket…unfolded of course so everyone could see it. Pretentious douchebag. She was a piece of work.

    Now, I never go to church. I think I am the only non-catholic in Pittsburgh. I have my faith and have become a little more conscience of it as I get older. Maybe it’s a normal response *to* getting older.

  12. Phil Jett says

    Don’t attend church and don’t practice religion. Don’t believe any of it. Lots of nice stories to teach people to be good to each other and then lots of tall tales.

    More inclined to believe in Babe the Blue Ox than all the stuff Moses was supposed to have done.

    If religion brings a person peace, that is fine with me. Seems like a lot of it brings more bad than good and fuck those fanatics.

  13. Clueless says

    Oops, guess I was remiss in the religious education of my son. Sent him to church once when he was five.

    We were visiting the parents for Easter (the Easter Bunny is more generous at Grandma’s) and after having way too much to drink the previous night, my husband and I told him he could eat all the candy he wanted if he would please go to church with Grandpa.

    Haven’t been to church since I was 17 and have walked an earth-based spiritual path for many years. All roads lead to Rome…

  14. Westersteve says

    We took the same route as Jeff and had our kids attend until confirmation. It didn’t take afterwards and they went on their merry way. Growing up my family was always there at the 10:00 service second pew on the right. My brothers and I also went the alter boy route. We caught on quick that when you sit that close to the front any absentee alter boy meant the priest took a quick look at our family and selected one of us to replace them. After the big C landed it all blew apart and I never looked back.

  15. madz1962 says

    I was born, raised and attended extensive Catholic schooling. But then I fell to the wayside. The catholic Church really needs an overhaul.

    But then, a strange thing happened. I work with a woman who is married to the cousin of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of NY. He was a (very slight) contender for Pope but he just became a Cardinal last year. So I kinda got all wrapped up again with a kinda/sorta personal edge. That doesn’t mean I’ve gone bck to Church or anything but I do love Cardinal Dolan.

    And yeah, I agree – you’re attending a religious service, not washing your car. Dress appropriately you asshats.

  16. Jerry in WV says

    I guess I am one of the odd ones in the group. Grew up in church. Attended 3 times a week. I now live in the Kanawha Valley and I believe I attend the Church Jeff grew up in. I am a Deacon and have had other roles within the church. Even taught Sunday school for 10 years. I have a strong faith, but am by no means a rule follower. You can ask Bill! I think it is all about love and forgiveness. Not condemnation and hate.

    • The Qweezy Mark says

      A lack of condemnation and hate leaves waaaaaay too much free time to become an alcoholic.

  17. Knucklehead says

    I was raised Catholic but I’m now an Athiest (the Catholic Church seems to be the best prerequisite to atheism), but not militant, by any means. I keep it to myself unless asked, the same way I like my religious friends to be. Religion is personal. Keep it that way.
    When I decided to move to the Catholic homeland, Italy, I figured I’d be in the minority for sure. Yeah, well, not so much. All of my relatives are atheist here as are most of the people I know. If they’re Catholic, they’re lapse as hell.
    I went to my first funeral here about 6 months after arriving. As usual, we donned all of our finery and headed off to the 950 year old church in the village. Half the people there looked like they had just walked in from the fields. WTF? It’s CHURCH. Jeans, muddy rubber boots (it was winter), hankies on the head – seriously. Like they were trimming their olive trees and remembered at the last minute they had a funeral to attend. Weird.

  18. Alex says

    Easy tip for catholic masses: Just keep an eye on whats happening around you. As a kid I went to church, bored me to tears, and it has always been, I never put the script to memory so was always keeping an eye on what was happening around me.

    I attended catlick grade and high school as well, so religious holidays had a mass during the school day as a neaby church. Attendance wasn’t mandatory, but it was strongly encouraged, technically you could go to the public library, but it often was an excuse to go to the arcade or record stores in the area. And yes, in high school we did do the wave. =-) We got a talking to for that, but being the rebels we where, we pulled off a few more randomnly through the rest of the year. About the only fun times.

    As someone else said: I’m not crazy about his fan clubs.

  19. dto says

    So ya gotta gather that most all religions have different guidelines and ceremony and pageantry but the underling theme seems to be…”Be cool and don’t do stupid shit”. Except for those snake handling bastards. That’s some stupid shit right there and I just can’t get into that whole thing. And the Shakers seem like a pretty weird bunch. Speaking in tongues is something I’ familiar with. Done that very same thing myself a time or seven. Acid, peyote, ether and booze were always involved but none the less I was a tongue talkin’ son-of a bitch. The no sex thing they have is a real buzz kill for me though. I can’t figure out how they plan on their thing to keep going by catering to a bunch of chronic masturbators

  20. says

    I used to go to a church that featured a guy out at the entrance that would tell people if their clothing was inappropriate. He always added that the church could donate clothes if need be, but wearing shirts and a tank-top just wouldn’t cut it there. I was cool with it and always dressed up. It’s usually a choice to wear an “inappropriate” outfit, rather than something done out of necessity. But whatever.

    One Sunday I came in behind a group of people that he promptly stopped. There was a teen in the group that was dressed like he was going to the lake. He gave them the spiel and the fat woman of the crowd immediately said, “But Jeses said, ‘come as you are!'” And he replied, “We’ll, I’m not Jesus. He’s not coming in here like that.” I died laughing.

  21. Rick in the UK says

    This pretty much sums up my current views on religion and is damned funny, see below. I too am a former catholic, with all the guilt and self-loathing that comes with it. Forced to go to Sunday school until confirmation, but attended catholic high school voluntarily because it was the best school in my area. There I learned enough about the church to put me off completely. Makes me think of the joke about law and sausages. I don’t miss any of it.

    If you don’t know The Oatmeal and you are a WVSR reader, you are missing out.