Friday, April 2, 2010

Trying to Make it a Good Friday

At least one day during the week, I generally break away from my oatmeal-only breakfast ritual and make eggs.  I happen to think that my eggs are pretty good.  Seems appropriate with the upcoming Holiday, no?  I like to grate cheese and put it in the skillet, just like my Uncle Albert did when we used to visit him back in West Virginia.  Like most concoctions in our kitchen, copious amounts of garlic usually make it into most recipes.  I also throw in other spices, including some Kansas City steak-rub that I bought several years ago.  Gives those eggs some "cookin' on the grill" essence, you know.  And I usually toss in some sort of meat, if I have it.  Today, I reached for some sliced ham, diced it up fine morsels and was ready to add it to the mixture when I remembered that it's Good Friday.

I'm not supposed to eat meat on Good Friday.  Actually, as most good, practicing Catholics will tell you, this day should be devoid of most ostentatious and enjoyable things.  Some would even tell you that this should be a day of fasting.  I had already informed clients that I would be closing the studio at Noon so that I could attend Good Friday services at 1 o'clock.  But I must admit that there's an uncertainty in the air, an uneasiness.  Joey Zaza, in The Godfather Part III, put it best when he addressed fellow Catholic Michael Corleone by saying, "I have a stone in my shoe".  I suppose I do, as well.  This season of Lent seems even more grim in light of the current events surrounding Pope Benedict and the Church.

My sister Emma invited me to dinner last weekend.  Donna was away in Florida so I decided to drive down to her house to join her.  My mother and sister Ann were there, too.  While we were eating, the subject of the Church's scandal, of course, came up in conversation.  My mother mentioned how disillusioned my father had been lately, telling her that he wasn't sure what to believe.  And although both my mother and sister vehemently abhor everything that has happened in regards to the abuse victims, they both continue to espouse, to a certain extent, this notion held by many Catholics that the Pope is shielded from these offenses, that he can't be held accountable if he claims he didn't know anything about them.  I mentioned that more and more information is starting to emerge that suggests that he, and other Cardinals and Archbishops, did have knowledge of incidents of abuse, some of the priests being multiple-offenders.  Ann reacted pretty strongly, saying that "other denominations and religions also had their abusers, and this is another example of people coming down on the Catholics".

I suppose our conversation could have been much longer and much more vocal.  The kids were all in the next room and I felt a bit uneasy about launching into a diatribe on the merits of hunting down pedophile priests and the administrators who allowed them to continue to work around children.  I don't know how often my mom or Ann question their faith; I'm sure everyone has, at one point or another.  But after all the points are brought out in defense of the Church, I can only imagine how they must feel afterwards trying to justify it to themselves.  I know that it's been disconcerting to me. I'm sure during this Easter weekend that the pulpits will be filled with priests giving carefully-worded homilies both berating the offenses committed and defending the actions of the authorities above them, especially Pope Benedict.  It won't be easy.  The media and the Vatican are involved in a tremendous battle, and the media has a good deal of artillery.

I've always felt a bit uncomfortable sharing some of my religious beliefs with my family, especially as it regards Catholicism.  After 8 years of Catholic grade school, 4 years of Catholic high school, and three years of Catholic seminary, I don't feel like a very good Catholic.  Even as a teenager, so many Catholic concepts, philosophically, just didn't make sense to me.  But, in the name of tradition, ritual, and, probably, fear, I went along with the program.  But today, at almost 50, I still struggle with some of the core concepts of the Catholic church.  I shared some of those during our conversation at Emma's house.  Ann had brought up the point that perhaps these priests wouldn't be in a position to do what they did if they were allowed to be married.  "I'm all for a married clergy," I said.  "But this priest who raped 200 boys broke his vow of celibacy  200 times!  Why would he not break his marriage vow!?"  My mother's blank stare did not sit well with me.  I wasn't sure if she was upset with what I'd said or merely upset, in general.  I thought it best not to share my beliefs about the ordination of women.

But I wanted to.  I wanted to throw it all out on the table.  I wanted to talk about married clergy, and how the number of priests might be elevated if the Church allowed it.  I wanted to talk about how grossly absurd it is that the Catholic church won't allow women to be priests.  I wanted to scream out about how boring the Liturgy is, and that most of the congregation participate with the same enthusiasm they show when they're waiting for their number to be called at the BMV.  I wanted to rail against the fact that we sing the same old songs, say the same dumb prayers, and read the same readings at the same time every year.  Why do the Pope and the Cardinals and the Archbishops have to wear these outlandish uniforms and rings?  Jesus didn't!  But I kept it to myself.  I figured that maybe my mother had had a tough week already.

As I ate my meatless eggs, I pondered Lent, Good Friday, and Easter.  I stared at the latest story in the Beacon Journal about the Vatican's response to the scandal.  And I stared at the picture of the Pope and I wondered if he's truly culpable.  What I wanted to tell my mom and sister is that underneath the gaudy vestments and the white collars, they're just men.  Some of these people are men with a serious problem.  And some of these men should go to prison and never see the outside again for the rest of their lives.

So, the journey continues.  I don't know what future Catholicism holds for me.  In light of everything, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to believe, or what it's supposed to mean.  As I flirt with Zen Buddhist meditation, Native Americam wisdom, holistic philosophies, and other non-Christian and secular techniques to enhance whatever spirituality lies within, I still continue to be flummoxed, bewildered, and awe-inspired by the story that a preacher from Nazareth died on a crucifix and then rose from the dead three days later.   For me.   I have to admit that I'm still trying to figure that one out!


Image: Suat Eman /

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