12/3/09
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Sunday Mass

church

I have never liked church. It has nothing to do with the hour-long sermon, the kneeling, sitting, standing, kneeling, sitting, standing, walking, sitting, kneeling, praying, and kneeling thing. Who needs aerobic classes? Convert to Catholicism. It’s a one day a week work out. If you are older and have only feline pets, then it could be a bi-weekly event. It’s cheap too. You can pay if you want. Just empty the change from your pocket and put it in the collection basket. No one is going to know if you didn’t pay. Some Churches hand you the basket and make you do all the work. Others, have the basket attached to a long ass pole and you drop it in when it passes you by. Mass can be seen as a kind of gym. When you’re born, you become a member. You can’t join all willy-nilly though. You gain membership by association. Day one, you’re brought to the Church, given a bath, and then wiped clean. It’s the only shower you’ll ever have to take at this gym.

During your younger years, you’re welcome to work at the gym. You can be an altar boy or an altar girl. You guide the people in and spot them. You sit there, you sit here. Then like any good gym employee, you sit on your ass and watch as everyone else works out. When you’re young, your parents force you to go to the church. But as you get older, you don’t have to go as much. You are welcome to attend. It’s a lifetime membership. My mom recently became a member of a different church. It’s a cathedral. Bigger church means more members. She was overly excited when they announced her name and printed it in the bulletin. Seems like the bigger churches are hurting the smaller one. Nothing like stepping on the little guy.

It’s custom to at least visit church on holidays. The two big holidays to attend are, Easter and Christmas. Easter mass is filled with pastel colors and drum playing. Christmas mass is over crowded and a sign that holiday music is over. There is only so many times you can hear, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and watch as hundreds of people race to the doors, not in an orderly fashion, but more like a reenactment of the LA Riots.

Mass starts out when you bless yourself in a dirty, bird bath looking bowl. You perform the sign of the cross,(spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch) walk in and look for a seat. You look around, seeing who is there. Spotting someone you know is almost a shock to you.You then kneel down and do the sign of the cross again. It’s all about repetition. This is the part of the pregame when you’re suppose to kneel and say prayers and ask for forgiveness. But no one does that. I never did. I usually just looked at other people and thought about what kind of people they really are. Does he beat his wife? Does she have a gambling problem? Is his kid damned for all eternity? These are the questions I asked myself. You say your prayers, then sit. I was always afraid to sit first. If I sat first, will my mom think that I didn’t really pray (which I didn’t)? But if you kneel longer, does that mean you have a lot to confess about? It’s a lose/lose situation.

The priest and the altar boys stand at the doors entering the church. Someone approaches the podium and raises their hands, motioning the people to stand. We sing a song. Usually it’s, “As the Deer Yearns”. The priest walks up and stands before the people. Sometimes you’ll sing one verse and other times you get to sing all twenty verses of the song. How many deers yearn for running streams? How many channels are there of peace? So we stop singing and the priest makes the sign of the cross. Again, you make the sign of the cross. He says, “hello”. You said “hello”. We offer peace to each other. Then we can sit. Someone reads a part from the Bible. We sing a hymn. Someone else gets up and says another passage from the Bible. Usually, the passages Six Degrees each other.

 

We are motioned to stand again. The priest reads from the Gospel. After he’s finished, he lets you sit. The sermon really depends on what kind of priest you have. Some priest will be funny and some will just talk aimlessly about the reading, being deep and philosophical. My mom always tells a joke about a hare with a permanent wave. Some priest told it. I don’t know the joke and probably never will. So, the sermon is done. You’re sitting there. The priest walks to his seat and just sits there, doing nothing. There is some awkward silent that fills the church. Without notice, he stands up. Then you stand. Again. Someone sings a song. You’re welcome to sing along but at this time, you’re fumbling through your wallet or purse, be it which ever you have. Members of the church come around with baskets, or in some cases, a basket attached to a long pole, and ask for money. It’s like a street act. The priest performs his sermon, a “free” lecture, then is asking for money. “anything will help”.  While he’s making it rain with our ‘dollar, dollar bill ya’ll’, his posse is in the lobby, pouring the money into a larger basket. Just look at them. All smug and proud of their thievery. Look at them roll around in the money, rubbing those bills over their mothball-smelling Sunday outfits. All the while, we’re shaking hands and giving peace to each and everyone around us. We sit then kneel. Three or four suckers, get conned into bringing the money and other essentials to the altar. The priest mutters some nonsense and opens a wall safe. Inside, is wine and stale rice cakes. We call this delicious meal, blood and body. Catholics get a bad rap for lots of things. Talking about drinking blood and eating flesh, doesn’t serve us justice. Even praying to Mary is a sin. Well, some people think it is.

We’re told to open our hymnals to a page. The staple song for the communion is, “One Bread, One Body.” We are kneeling while people walk by, touching the top of the pew. When they touch your pew, its okay for you to get up and get in line. It’s custom for you to sit when they are about 2 pews ahead of yours. It makes the line move quicker. When you get to the front, you can stick out your tongue and have the rice cake put on it or you can take it in your hands and place it in your mouth by yourself. Again, you perform the sign of the cross. The wine is offered, but you don’t have to take it. Did you know, that the Catholics allow minors to drink wine? When you have your first communion, which if memory serves me right, (is in the second grade) that is when you can start drinking wine. Also, a thin, white cloth can stop the spread of germs. After each person drinks for the cup, they wipe it down. Catholic don’t believe in backwash.

For people who attend church, they sure don’t want to be there. People sneak out after communion. It’s as if they think they’re being sneaky. Some like to sit in the very last pew. It’s easier to get out. You’re the first to your car and the first one out of the parking lot. But if it is Sunday, then being in the back pew means, you’ll be the first to get coffee and donuts.  During this whole work out people call mass, you have to shake hands with the person next to you. “Peace be with you.” The only peace I like, is peace and quiet. There is really no escaping the shaking hands thing. Even if the person is four pews in front of you, you have to nod. How far out to you have to go? Is there a legal limit to peace giving? If you’re in the front row, you’re lucky enough to get a handshake from the priest. It’s a honor.  What make the whole shaking hands thing awkward, is when you’re backing up on shaking hands. You’ll be shaking one persons hand and there are two other people waiting in line to shake yours. You need one of those number ticket things you see at butcher shops. “Now serving the handshake from the guy in pew four“.

We go back to our seats but have to kneel. After the last person is done being fed, the priest takes the bottle of wine and gulps it down. He puts all his crap back in the wall safe and sits down. If lunch ran longer, a second song is started. I’ve never participated in a three song lunch and I hope I never have to. We’re finally able to sit again. You would be rejoicing too. Those kneelers are horrible. We are asked to stand. The priest speaks. To this day, I have no idea what he says. I think by this time of the mass, I am anxious to leave and I am just thinking about getting home and relaxing. Sunday is the day of rest. It isn’t the day to get up at six in the morning, pile in the car and drive to a church. The priest mutters some final words and let’s us go. We are sent in peace and told, “the mass has ended. Let us go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” Mass is over but not without one final sign of the cross. We sing one last song. It’s a joyful song. Either joyful cause we’re going home or joyful cause we heard the word of the Lord. Mass ends with the number, “Sing to the Mountains.” You stay in your pew till the priest and altar boys walk by. It can take a short while or a long time. Like I said. It all depends on the priest. I remember one priest who could do an hour-long mass in 25 minutes. My mother didn’t like that church. We did though. It was the cliff notes of the Catholic mass.

The priest hangs out in the lobby and shakes hands with people. It’s pretty crowded in the lobby. You need to be quick to escape. Once you’re out the doors of the church, the world is yours. Do with it what you wish. But remember. A week from that moment, you’ll be right back in that church, singing about deers, mountains, and rice cakes.

The post has ended. Go in peace. In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit/ghost.

Amen.