Saturday, May 31, 2014

Catholic Tastes

I hadn't been inside a Catholic church in years - at least not in the US.  I would occasionally wander into one in another country, lured by the architecture, guilted into opening the doors by the great art that I was going to have to explain missing to those friends.  You know the type.

And after a while I'd be creeped out by the gloom, by the gory art, and I'd push open the small wooden door that opened to the side, next to the big wooden doors (why are the big front doors always locked?) and I would let the light and breeze wash over me and chase away the cooties.  

I know, I know - all those beautiful altarpieces, all that significant art.  With apologies to Frances Mayes and art lovers everywhere, give me a still life, a Dutch master, an Impressionist, a plein air painter, anything but a bleeding Christ and weeping virgins and souls melting off to eternal damnation.  If I want to be depressed  I can read the papers.  (On my computer.   I'm not a total Luddite.)

But this was Mackenzie's first communion.  Preceded by her first confession.  My confession: I feel like I get the fish-eye from those in the know the minute I walk into a Catholic church, priests and congregants alike.  I feel like there's a big neon sign flashing over my head that says "Protestant!  Philistine!" and you know how things were between Catholics and Protestants for the longest time. 

But Lisa is a dear friend, and we had watched Mackenzie grow up. We had met Lisa's gracious and warm parents, and heard stories of their big Italian family.  In an Italian family, there is no opt out.  (Carol, are you listening?)  You are family.  Forever.  And if you really believe the Catholic stuff, way beyond.  End of sentence.  

So we went.  And, totally intimidated by the crowds, we tried to sneak into a seat in the back of the church and waaaaaaay off to the side.  (Do you have any idea how many Catholics are having first communions every day?  Neither do I but I can tell you from the crowd of communicants at St Isidore's it's a lot.)  

Sitting quietly on the side, I heard, "Pssssst!   Psssssst!"  And then I heard someone call my name.  I looked up, and Lisa's mom was flapping her hand at me.  

"Come, come!" and she flapped her hand some more, and patted the seat next to her.

So we climbed over the dozen or so families sitting between us and Lisa's family, and squeezed in next to a handsome man and his beautiful pregnant wife  He introduced himself as Lisa's brother, Joey.

I don't know what to do at a Catholic mass.  Lutherans don't kneel except for communion, and altho I get the standing up and sitting down bits (it helps that they tell you when to do what) and I've jumped thru all the Lutheran hoops and feel smugly qualified to take communion, the Catholics, I fear, would disagree.  One true faith and all that.  

So I said to Joey, "I'm not sure what to do.  I'm not Catholic, I'm Lutheran.  You know, all of the guilt, but no confession, no absolution of sins - you're pretty much guilty for life."

He smiled, pointed at his mother, and said "That's what Italian mothers are for."  

Since that day, his mother Maria has taught me to make pomorolo, and zucchini soup.  She has shared her sugo and promised to teach me how to make that too.  Renzo is going to teach me how to cure olives - his are a religious experience.  I have helped Lisa make tags for her mother's birthday, and I swear I still find flecks of red glitter after all this time.   In the weirdest places - like inside cookbooks?

I fiercely love that family.  Mackenzie is getting confirmed soon, they are all gathering, and I wish they would adopt me.  Barring that, I hope they send a good word upstairs.  

Happy Confirmation, Macaroni.  I love you.

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