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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

I started taking jazzercise classes last week because I’m really old.  Just kidding – I’m actually taking jazzercise because there’s a class right next to my building and I never exercise because when I get home I’m too lazy to go anywhere.  I figured I could head this problem off at the pass if I just work out before I even go home, hence this excursion into 1980’s fitness fads.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever done jazzercise before, but it involves a lot of bouncing up and down from mats on the floor to skipping around upright like some crazed squirrel on meth.  Sometimes you switch between the two poses rapidly, until just hoisting the weight of your own body on and off of the floor is exhausting after so many reps.  Needless to say my legs are killing me.

I went to jazzercise last Thursday night, and then on Friday I went to mass to commemorate Jesus’s crucifixion.  It seemed like a good idea at the time….I’m not Catholic, so I haven’t been to all of the Catholic services yet.  I had done Palm Sunday and Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil) at a Catholic church, but I had always done Good Friday at Protestant churches.  If you’re a Catholic you already know the punchline to this story.

Apparently, good Friday is a penitential aerobic work-out.  It involves about 30 minutes of reading from the gospel story of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem, the last supper, his arrest and trial, and the crucifixion, and all of this is done standing (since you always stand out of respect during the gospel readings).  Then you kneel for about an hour while lots of esoteric ritual goes on, which mostly involves venerating the cross and being grateful to Jesus for suffering so we could have grace.

At this point if you’ve been to jazzercise, your legs are probably in agony, but the best part is at the end of the service, when the whole church prays for 10 specific intentions like world peace, wisdom for world leaders, and people in crisis to have comfort.  This involves the priest saying a prayer and then chanting, “All kneel.”  Everyone drops to their knees for one minute and prays silently, and then bounces back up to their feet.  The priest prays for the next intention and then chants, “All kneel,” and everyone goes down again.  This goes on and on and on until you’ve done it 10 times just like a rep in jazzercise and you want to cry.  But then you feel bad because Jesus died on the cross for your sins, damnit, and he suffered a lot more on this day than you did and the least you can do is kneel and pray for the people who need comfort, you selfish wretch.

There is some kind of unholy alliance between the people who choreograph jazzercise classes and the Catholic Church.  Just saying.

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I went to mass on Saturday night for Palm Sunday vigil.  I like to go to mass on Saturday nights because then I can be lazy on Sundays and sleep late.  My husband didn’t want to go, and asked me to stay since we were at the Pollada, but we had missed mass the previous weekend so I told him I would go by myself and come back.

I don’t go to mass by myself very much.  It’s awkward somehow since I’m Protestant.  When my husband is there, I feel like he’s my excuse.  “Well, I married into this Catholic family, and this is their family church, so here I am.”  When he’s not with me, it just seems somehow obvious that I am a poser, or out of place.

I don’t know why I go to mass instead of to a Protestant church.  I cannot take communion – I only get blessed by the priest.   The priest that married us recognizes me and knows why I’m there, but when it’s a different priest I wonder if they are speculating as to why I am there each week in the communion line, silently shaking my head with my arms crossed when they go to give me the eucharist.  They don’t give me a hard time – they just make the sign of the cross over me and say a blessing, but still I wonder how they interpret my presence each week.  Are they thinking, “Who is this girl who will never let me give her communion?”  Or have they caught on that I’m a Protestant and don’t belong?

I like the way there are rules for mass.  I like the formulas and the ritual and the beauty of the little church where I was married.  I like having a time to kneel down and pray silently.  Usually when I arrive, genuflect, and kneel at my pew I feel this sense of entering God’s presence.  I literally think something along the lines of, “Hey, God.  It’s good to see you again this week.”  When I walk into other churches, like the Protestant megachurch that I went to before I started going to mass each week, I just don’t feel that same sense of recognition, like God lives there.

This is holy week, so basically you’re supposed to be at church on Palm Sunday, Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter.  This is the week that the adult catechumens will be welcomed into communion with the church.  They have been preparing since September.  The next set of classes starts in September, and I’ve been debating if I should go.  I’d like to actually take communion, but then I wonder if I could truly believe that it is the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.  I don’t like the church’s stance on gay marriage.  As a Protestant, I can just believe in the bible and not make any formal confession of faith that aligns me with people who oppose gay marriage.  Somehow studying to become a Catholic would feel like a betrayal of certain social issues that I support.  I don’t know what I will do in September, but I was sad to be sitting alone at mass this week and unsure of what I was doing there.

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Okay, Catholics.  I know you’re out there.  I want to know why you think the Virgin Mary died a virgin.  After all, she was…married!

*

I studied theology at a Catholic seminary that trained monks and nuns for one semester.  I was the only non-priest, non-monk, non-nun in this class, which in theory was supposed to be about the history of the modern in church.  In practice, the coursework reached the Reformation during the first week and never advanced beyond it for the entire semester.  Periodically, my professor would beseechingly ask me questions about why I was a protestant heretic.

My favorite such encounter was when he stopped mid-sentence during one lecture and said to me, “FierceLinguist, why don’t you love the Virgin Mary?  Your church is motherless!” *cue much gasping from the nuns and monks in the audience*  I offered a halting explanation in Spanish at to why Protestants think the Virgin Mary is a Very Nice Lady and yet not someone who can help you with prayers.

I’m actually a big fan of the Virgin Mary, but I’m really not sure why it’s so abhorrent for people to think that she eventually had sex with her husband.  My husband has requested that I not  ask our priest about this at mass this weekend.  I’m pretty sure he’d just start talking about Tradition with a capital “t” anyway.  Or say it’s a “mystery” of the church, which means, “Bless your heart, it’s rude to ask about the sex lives of saints.  This is why you’re one of the separated brethren.”

*http://blasphemes.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html

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