On workdays, my alarm clock goes off at 9:30 am. I generally groan ‘n’ thrash for the next thirty minutes, sigh real loud, and finally hoist my heft off the platform around 10:00. But, for unknown reasons, the clock didn’t start chirping until 10:55 yesterday.
And it threw my entire Wednesday into disarray…
I wanted to tell you guys about the events of Monday, but my pre-work calibration was off. It was compacted-down, and I wasn’t able to recover. So, sorry ’bout that; I hate not being able to update. But I’ll tell you the story now…
To be honest, I hesitate to even bring this stuff up. Because it’ll likely trigger diatribes (both pro and con) and much jumping to conclusions. And a few folks might even be offended. Politics and religion are dangerous territory, it’s well-known, and this tale is about the latter.
You see, I bring nothing to the table, when it comes to religion. I was raised a Baptist, but it never took. On the day my parents stopped requiring me to attend church, I stopped going. I never liked it, not for a single minute.
However, and this is the point I’d like to emphasize, I’m not anti-religion. Not at all. Just because it hasn’t worked for me so far, doesn’t mean I have a big chip on my shoulder about it. That’s one of the places where people often jump to conclusions.
When our kids were young, Toney and I had a conversation about all this stuff. She’s not all that religious either, but was raised a Catholic. She felt the boys should be exposed to church, in a very casual way, and they could do with it what they will, as adults.
I didn’t disagree, and so… our kids are Catholic. Casual Catholics. Toney is as well, and I’m not anything. I’m just a spiritual free agent, afloat in the world…
And on Monday our oldest went through confirmation, which is why Toney’s cousin came up from Philadelphia. She was his “sponsor.” I’m unclear on the exact role of the sponsor, she just kinda stood behind him during the ceremony, but whatever.
Once again, I was the baffled outsider. I’ve attended several Catholic ceremonies during my life, and a couple of Catholic weddings, but this one was taken to the next level. And I was thoroughly confused.
It was held at a large church in our town, and there were more than a hundred 8th graders involved. Oh, it was quite an event.
The kids were all wearing long robes, with sashes. Each sash had the name of a saint on it, and our boy (as well as many other boys) was sporting John — my Dad’s name. One kid had chosen Aloysius, which I thought was kinda cool.
They all filed in, a random boy walking with a random girl, and were seated in the front several rows of pews.
Then a whole contingent of priests entered, along with several children carrying various items, a person holding an ornate staff with a cross on top, and three elderly men inexplicably dressed as 19th century sea captains.
After this gang was nearly settled, the Bishop entered. He was an older gentlemen, dressed like the Pope. Only his hat wasn’t nearly as tall… Apparently the higher a person rises in the organization, the taller his hat? Is that the way it works? I’m unclear.
As he made his way toward the front of the room the man in the abbreviated Pope hat shook hands and greeted people. It took quite a while for him to complete the journey, and it reminded me of the President, before the State of the Union address.
After some singing and a few prayers, the Bishop clipped a microphone on his collar, and began talking to the 8th graders. And he was kinda… odd. His voice would sometimes get very, very high, so that only dogs could hear it, then instantly go low, like the Statler Brother way down on the end.
He would also talk in hushed tones, and suddenly shout a word or phrase — scaring the crap out of everyone. At one point he screamed “DIRTY MAGAZINES!!” apparently as part of a story he was telling, that nobody could follow. I couldn’t, anyway.
Occasionally he asked the kids a question, and they all looked terrified that they’d be singled out. His talk lasted for at least thirty minutes, and there was tension in the air. It seemed like anything could happen, that almost anything was possible. Heh.
Then the ceremony kicked into high-gear, and I kinda lost track of it. I remember lots of call-and-response with the audience, spontaneous handshaking, a man swinging an incense burner on a chain, several priests on the edge of the stage bowing in unison and reminding me of the synchronized rockin’ guitarists in Molly Hatchet.
…Is that the right word, stage?
At one point the Bishop was wearing a beanie, and a man came up behind him, plucked the thing off the old guy’s head, placed it lovingly on a silver tray, and carried it off.
By the end, the place was full of scented smoke, my eyes were watering and my throat was burning, people were drinking from a jewel-encrusted chalice, the choir was singing, the Bishop was holding a silver staff, and three British admirals from the 1800s were in attendance…
It all seemed very strange to me, the outsider. As, I’m sure, a Baptist service would seem to… most people. What with all the shouting and shaking and wallowing around in the floor.
I don’t know. I hope I’m not being disrespectful. But have you ever attended an unfamiliar ceremony of some sort, which kinda blew your mind? Religious, or otherwise? Tell us about it in the comments, won’t you?
And I won’t be able to update on Friday, I’m afraid, but will shoot for a weekend post, to make up for yesterday.
See you guys next time!