Easter is coming. In addition to thinking about how I will spend the day (or days) and what I will cook, today I began to think about how I used to celebrate the death and rising again of Christ.
During the weeks leading up to Easter in my early school days, we would go to Church every Friday for the Stations of the Cross. While long and boring to most kids, I loved it. In fact, I still do. Last year on a trip to the States before the Easter Holiday, I attended Church for the Stations. There is something about it that is so dramatic and meaningful to me. A play-by-play, if you will, of the death of our Lord.
Palm Sunday – no one in their right mind likes Palm Sunday. It is the longest mass of the year. The only fun part for a kid was after Church. They handed out palm and we would take them home and try to create intricate weaves of them to hang above the Crucifix in each room. My brother and nephews were likely smacking each other around with them in Three Stooges style.
Holy Thursday – as I kid, I would sometimes be dragged along to a special mass on Thursday evening. I liked that not because of the mass itself, but because of the mini-play that was put on in the middle of the mass. A woman washing the feet of a man and drying them with her hair. It didn’t mean much to me then, it was just an oddity that fascinated me.
Good Friday – I always did the same thing on Good Friday; I turned off the TV and radio and quietly read my favorite passages of the Bible from Noon until 3p.m., the hours that Jesus suffered and died on the Cross.
Holy Saturday was a day of shopping and preparing for the big day. Coloring Easter Eggs. Filling Easter baskets. Testing the lemon and jelly rolls before they hit the table the next day.
Easter, like other religious holidays, started with mass, and then was filled with chocolates and candies, visits from family, and a huge family meal with a candied ham and all its dressings.
Today, those memories are tarnished by allegations of sexual molestation of children by Catholic priests. Instead of people asking me how I celebrate the holiday, I am asked how I can remain a Catholic. It’s a very depressing situation for today’s Catholics, those who want to practice their faith.
I always liked going to mass. I stopped going when it became inconvenient and when every homily was talk of anti-abortion. I couldn’t stand it any more. In addition, the mass had become slow and boring. There was no longer the 11:15 Charismatic Mass filled with song and music of guitars. The music is no longer “Protestant”. We don’t sing the good old songs, but rather terribly written pieces that have no business being referred to as music.
Although I don’t like mass any more, it doesn’t stop me from going with my Mom, nor does it make me less Catholic. The sexual abuse by Catholic priests also does not cloud my faith.
I am sickened by it all – by people who would harm innocent children. I am embarrassed and infuriated by the disgusting cover-up of these heinous acts. But when I am questioned about why I think this happens, I remain steadfast in my answer.
It has nothing to do with the fact that priests do not marry, nor is about gays.
Sick people do these things. First with marriage – if a heterosexual male joins the priesthood, he knows what the deal is. He can’t marry. If he decides to stray, does he seek out a young boy or does he take off his collar and go to a bar looking for a hot woman? I think my answer is clear.
Gays – Gay men are not child molesters! Sick people are. Gays are not sick. And if one happens to join the priesthood and decides to stray, would he seek out a child instead of a hot Italian stud? Enough said.
What I think happens is this: Every family, especially Irish, Italians, and Spanish, (and I do not mean to be blaming this on a nationality – so please don’t read it that way) used to expect to have a priest and/or a nun in the family. There was a lot of pressure placed on the kids. In addition, there were a lot of geeky and very homely young men, who thought they could never get a girl, who joined the priesthood. And yes, I think there were a lot of gay men who punished themselves by joining the priesthood, because their lifestyle was unacceptable to society and especially to their families. Finally, there were a lot of very sick individuals, who sought out the priesthood as a way to either punish themselves for their sick thoughts, or who looked to the Church to save them. Surely, if they served God, he would cure him of their illnesses, right?
Some where along the way, things got all screwed up. No, I don’t think any of them sought the priesthood as a way to molest children. They didn’t need to sign up to do that. Sadly, children are hurt every where. In schools. In grocery stores. At home.
I do think that for that last group of men, the desire to harm children was not stricken by God. It continued. But regarding those gay men, those forced into the priesthood by their families, those geeks who couldn’t get the girl, they all either left the priesthood, or continued to do the best they could without laying a hand on a child.
This Easter season, I have not reenacted the sorrows of our Lord (although I did check out a few of the Stations at Maria Vesperbild a few weeks ago.) I will not watch the woman drying Jesus’s feet with her hair on Thursday. I will not sit down to a big and tasty ham, or rip the ear from a chocolate bunny. I will, however, sit down with my Bible at some point this weekend, read a few passages, and pray.
I will pray for children every where, that they are safe from harm and can have happy and loving memories of their childhood. I will pray for those priests who have done no harm, that they may continue to good work in the name of the Lord. I will pray for the Church, that we can carry on even after such terrible crimes by our members.
I will also pray for those men who committed these crimes – for men and women everywhere who commit these crimes – that they will confess their sins and suffer the consequences as Jesus would have wanted.
Update: Why am I still Catholic? After 16 years of Catholic education, four of which were at a Jesuit university, and another 4 years of law school (not Catholic), I still believe that religion is basically a good thing. I believe in the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For the most part, I believe that Catholic schooling and practice of the faith played a great role of making me the person I am today, and I like me. I have studied a lot about other religions, and I just don’t think that one is better than the other – although the practice can be very different. I would consider switching if a fabulous new religion came along, but as for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, I find them pretty much the same. Be good. Do the right thing. Their books are the same up to a certain point; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah . . . Then the Christians and the Muslims go a little off with verses about those who will not enter Heaven, and those who should be put out of their misery. I do believe that God assisted in writing those books. But mankind had the final word. And therein lies the trouble with religion.