Category Archives: Confessions of a Cynical Catholic

Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: God has left the Building

(This is a reblog of one of my 2016 posts from http://www.acatholicmoment.org) aaaaa

Out of all of the days of the Church year, Holy Saturday is my least favorite. Even though I know it is the last day of my Lenten journey and that Easter is only 24 hours away, there is a strange emptiness to it that I can’t shake. It’s as if God has left the building.

The first time I ever really thought about Holy Saturday was the year I saw Jesus Christ Superstar, the 1970s rock opera centered on the last days of Christ. Unlike a lot of passion plays or movies, there is no resurrection coda to give the whole thing a happy ending and from a plot standpoint Jesus Christ Superstar is a bit of a downer, but it did cause me to wonder what that first Holy Saturday might have been like for those who experienced it.

Was it only six days ago that they followed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem full of idealistic hopes and dreams? By Saturday it had to feel like longer. It always does when everything goes downhill quickly. Even though only a few days have passed, it feels more like 10 years have gone by in a blur. I imagine that by the time the sun set on Good Friday, the family and friends of Jesus went home in a daze, spent the evening in shock and woke up on Saturday feeling lost, alone and afraid that God had abandoned them.

It’s only natural for your faith to be a little shaky whenever you lose someone you love. It happens to us in the 21st Century so it only makes sense that it would have happened to them as well. I wonder if they spent Holy Saturday sitting analyzing every conversation, going over every “what if” scenario and reassuring one another that they did everything they could. I wonder if they really felt absolved or if no matter how much they talked, they ended up back where they started – with more questions than answers.

Did they wonder where God was when His Son was being crucified? Had He given up on the human race? If Jesus could feed the hungry, heal the sick and raise the dead, why couldn’t he come up with a quick getaway plan for himself? Maybe they argued over trivial things like why Jesus gave His mother to John and not Philip. Perhaps there were minor blow-ups that blew over and segued into uncomfortable silences as everyone tried to get their bearings.

Somehow I can picture James breaking into everyone’s thoughts to ask about something Jesus had said. “Remember when He said He could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days? Did anyone else get what he talking about, or am I the only one who didn’t understand.”

“Nah,” Bartholomew said, shaking his head. “I didn’t get it either. Everyone knows it takes more than three days to get a permit around here, let alone line up a construction crew.”

“Jesus was a good carpenter, but even He isn’t THAT good,” Thaddeus offers with a chuckle.

There would have been laughter. There would have been tears. There would have been memories. They would have done what families do when there has been a loss. At some point, someone might have announced that it was getting late and they should turn in for the night. Sabbath would be over soon and there was work to be done in the morning. Mary and her friends would volunteer to go to the tomb the next day to anoint Jesus’ body since there wasn’t time to do it the day before. Peter might have nodded and warned her to be careful around the Roman guards that have been placed outside the tomb.

“You should probably take someone with you to help with that rock,” he muttered before retiring for the night. “That thing weighs a ton.”

For everyone else, it was just another Saturday, but for the friends and family of Jesus, their world felt shattered. As with the loss of any loved one, it would hurt for days, weeks, months and years to come, but maybe, with a little faith they would eventually come to realize that God is still with them, even when it feels like He isn’t.

It’s that thought that cheers Mary up a little before she goes to sleep. Yes, she thinks as she closes her eyes. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.

Today’s Mass Readings:

GN 1:1-2:2; GN 1:1, 26-31A; PS 104: 1-2, 5-6, 10-12, 13-14, 24, 35; PS 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20 and 22; GN 22:1-18; GN 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18; PS 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11; EX 14:15-15:1; EX 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18; IS 54:5-14; PS 30:2,4,5-6, 11-12, 13; IS 55:1-11; IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; BAR 3:9-15, 32-4:4; PS 19:8,9,10,11; EZ 36:16-17A, 18-28; PS 42:3,5; 43:3,4; IS12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6; PS 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19; ROM 6:3-11;PS 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23; LK 24:1-12

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up?

(This is a reblog of one of my 2016 posts from http://www.acatholicmoment.orgaaaa

When I was younger, there was a popular, long-running panel show called To Tell the Truth. Airing in the early evening, To Tell the Truth was a quasi-game show in which a panel of celebrities tries to correctly identify a central character out of three possible contestants based on nothing more than a description and a series of questions they pose to the individuals over the course of a few minutes.

The show worked like this: The three contestants enter the studio and introduce themselves to the panel as the same individual (usually someone with an unusual occupation or life experiences). The host then reads a sizable bio summarizing the person’s life and experiences and then over the next few minutes, the panel grills the contestants over what they have heard in hopes of figuring out which one is the real deal. The central character is expected to answer all of the questions honestly, while the imposters are allowed to lie in hopes of misleading the panel. When the question and answer period is over, the panel casts their votes for the contestant they think is genuine and when all of the votes are cast, the host asks, “Will the real (NAME) please stand up?”

It’s never easy to try and figure out who someone is, especially if you have preconceived notions as to who they are supposed to be and I imagine this was the conundrum facing the people who heard Jesus speak. In fact, if To Tell the Truth had been on the air in 33 AD, I’d wager no one on the panel would have banked on Jesus being the Son of God at all. Let’s face it; based on the established bio, this guy didn’t fit the bill!

If you read the passages leading up to today’s gospel, it’s fairly obvious that Jesus isn’t on a winning streak. Although he has uttered some of his more famous speeches that we cling to today, they aren’t playing well to the populous and he’s losing followers left and right. His own family thinks He’s nuts. His community is confused and the powers that be have no idea what to do about Him. How can this guy be the Messiah when he doesn’t come from the right place, doesn’t say the things he is supposed to say, doesn’t do the things he is supposed to do and seems bent on throwing their carefully crafted tradition right out the window?

Still, it is obvious from today’s reading that even though many people are certain his is not the Christ they are looking for, they are hesitant to condemn him outright. He’s made enough of an impression that although some are still skeptical, others have seen the light. He’s cast a shadow on the messianic stereotype and caused folks to question what they knew for sure. However, in opening minds, He has also hardened hearts and in doing so, he’s placed Himself in a no-win situation that is sure to come to a very grisly end.

And all because He dared “to tell the Truth.”

Today’s Readings for Mass:

Jer 11: 18-20; Ps 72: 2-3, 9, bc 10, 11-12; Jn 7: 40-53

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: A Prodigal Playlist

(This is a reblog of one of my 2016 posts from http://www.acatholicmoment.org)aaa

No question about it 1975 was a good year for great albums. Classics released that during those 365 days included: KISS Alive, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Queen’s A Night at the Opera, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti and Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic. However, as far as I was concerned, the LP that should have won the Grammy for Album of the Year was none other than Hi God 2 by Carey Landry and Carol Jean Kinghorn.

While you can’t really compare its tracks to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Kashmir,” or “Walk This Way,” Hi God 2 had a lot going for it and I was delighted when my mother presented me with my very own copy as a First Communion present. There was the ever-popular “If I Were a Butterfly” as well as other tunes we sang during all-school Mass however, the song that stands out to me the most was a little ditty called “Song of the Loving Father” and it is where I heard about the Prodigal Son for the first time.

The song was located at the end of side three and was something I usually avoided because it wasn’t one that featured a chorus of children in the background. But one day, I let the previous track play too long and it segued into a strange piece that began with a spoken word narrative about a father, his two kids and what happened when Kid B convinced his dad to divide up his estate prior to his death.

Although I was six at the time and didn’t really have a handle on probate laws, I was fairly positive that this was an unconventional arrangement. Still, as I listened to the words coupled by a lone acoustic guitar, I couldn’t help being riveted by the story. After all, it’s a tale as old as time itself: A person comes into more money than they’ve ever seen before, has no clue as to how to handle it, blows through it in a nanosecond, and has to come crawling back with their tail between their legs.

But just when you think you know how this will end, Jesus puts a spin on this classic and illustrates how God forgives us when we screw up time and time again. Even at that young of an age I understood the message behind the music and saw the symbolism within the song. We can “go our own way,” “rock and roll all night and party everyday” and yet when we are through feeling like we were “born to run” He’s ready to welcome us back and prove that he loves us unconditionally and is the “best friend” we’ll ever have.

Looking back on it, I am amazed that a short story Jesus told 2,000 years ago still has as much relevance for us today as it did back then. Like any good storyteller or songwriter, he knew the trick is keeping it simple. Create a catchy refrain that sticks in everyone’s brain. Make sure the words resonate with the listener and that it sounds good when backed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. Even if it doesn’t have a good beat and you can’t dance to it, it will still stand the test of time as His parables prove over and over again.

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: It was like being a Beatle

(This is a reblog of one of my 2016 posts from http://www.acatholicmoment.org)aa

It’s a term celebrities and other notable names use whenever they experience an unprecedented level of fame. Over the years I have heard countless musicians, actors, politicians and even Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling use the same six words to describe that moment when they realize their career has taken some kind of turn and that people see them as something larger than life: It was like being a Beatle.

It’s a statement that, for the most part, needs no explanation to those who hear it. It’s the kind of analogy people simply “get.” Most everyone who has been plugged into pop culture over the past 50-plus years has seen the iconic images of the Fab Four arriving at the newly christened JFK Airport in February 1964. They watched as the band gave a startled wave to the assembled crowd. They saw the fans pressed along the tarmac hoping to catch a glimpse of the lads from Liverpool. They heard the screams, and cries of an adoring public and read the signs heralding the new British Invasion and they knew within an instant that this band was somehow different than every act that came before. It’s a sentence that encompasses the very essence of that seminal moment in history and conveys all of the feelings and emotions that come along with it. “It was like being a Beatle.” Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

I was a sophomore in high school before I ever really considered what the gospel writers meant when they said Jesus ate with “tax collectors and sinners.” Naturally, I understood the “sinners” part (though I am sure I envisioned these people as being much more nefarious than myself) but it was the “tax collectors” part that I couldn’t follow. What was so bad about eating with the good people of H&R Block or the IRS? Weren’t they just work-a-day Joes like everyone else?

Not exactly, according to my religion teacher at the time. Evidently, back in the First Century, tax collectors were a pretty corrupt bunch. I’m not talking about creating a code so complicated few people can actually understand it, but a ruthless, insidious band of characters no one in their right mind would want to hang out with. She explained that when the gospel writers used the term “tax collectors and sinners” they were nodding to popular slang of the time and those who read it completely understood it. Like the Beatle analogy, it was the kind of sentence that said it all.

I often wonder how St. Luke would write his gospel if it were happening today? Would he qualify Jesus’ popularity by claiming He was bigger than the Beatles? Would he explain His influence on others by calling Him the John Lennon of ministry? (And before you ask, yes…I see what I did there.) With whom would Jesus have to have dinner with in order for it to be considered a public affront by most of the world? More importantly, what would be the take away message from this action? Would it be that Jesus is somehow different than anyone who came before him? Would it be that Jesus always represents the gold standard of behavior? Or would it be that Jesus came to heal everyone and no matter who you are there is a place at his table? Maybe we should focus less on how the infamous tax collectors and sinners earned their Beatle-like distinction and instead realize that if Jesus’ mercy extends to them, then perhaps we should pull up a chair and have a seat as well.

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: How cool is that?

(This is a reblog from one of my 2016 posts at http://www.Acatholicmoment.com)b

When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the ABC hit television series Happy Days and like many viewers; I couldn’t get enough of Arthur Fonzarelli (a.k.a. “The Fonz.”) In the event you have never heard of this individual, the Fonz (played by Henry Winkler) was a tough-talking, 1950’s era, bad boy greaser with a heart of gold who lived in a small apartment above the Cunningham’s garage and served as an adopted son, older brother, idol, mentor and pal to the rest of the show’s ensemble.

Those who are familiar with the series know there was nothing that Fonz couldn’t do. He was the coolest of the cool. He could always be counted upon to show up in a pinch, take on any challenge and defeat any foe whether it was a rival gang, a power hungry police officer, or even an alien named Mork. He was both revered and feared by his friends who were intimidated and inspired by his special brand of magic no one fully understood. He could turn off the lights or cause the jukebox to play with a bump of his fist. He could make the phone ring or the girls to flock by his side with a mere snap of his fingers and over the course of 11 seasons performed any number of stunts no normal person in their right mind would attempt.

One of my favorites occurred during an episode in which the Fonz joins Richie and the gang on a campout in the woods. While attempting to sleep under the stars like a cowboy, he becomes annoyed by the numerous nighttime noises, rises from his place by the fire and shouts, “Cool it!” into the darkness. The animals naturally cease on his command and when he is satisfied by the outcome, the Fonz straightens his jacket, folds his arms and lays back saying, “Let’s see Tarzan do that!”

Whenever I see a rerun of this episode, I am reminded of today’s gospel in which Jesus calms the sea. Though it may be sacrilegious to compare the Son of God to a beloved television icon, I can’t help seeing the similarities. Though He didn’t wear a leather jacket or ride a motorcycle, I get the impression that Jesus’ presence commanded attention wherever He went. He was the coolest of the cool. His friends counted on Him to come through in clutch situations, did not understand the special power He clearly possessed and seem both awed and afraid of Him at the same time.

What I find most interesting is how those around these two individuals react to their God-given abilities. No matter how many times they ride in like the cavalry or save the day in the nick of time, their friends them genuinely seem surprised when it happens. It is as though they lack faith in someone who has proven time and time again how capable he is and more than ready to stand up to the challenge.

Unfortunately we also lack that faith in ourselves. Both the Fonz and Jesus stress to their friends the need to have faith in themselves when problems arise because one day, they won’t be around to fight their battles for them. Though we may not be able to control nature or command the sea, when we look inside our own hearts we must seek to find that little bit of Jesus or the Fonz that lives inside of us; the part that has the faith in our ability to weather any storm, stand up to any test, remain cool under pressure and use the gifts God has given us. It’s only then will we accomplish more than we ever dream possible.

I think even the Fonz would have to give that idea two thumbs way up.

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Along for the Ride

(This is a reblog of one of my 2016 posts from http://www.acatholicmoment.com)

Saturday 1/16/16 – Along for the ridea

I was heading out on a routine Saturday afternoon errand run when I asked my husband if he wanted to come along for the ride.

“Well now, that depends,” he said, diverting his attention from the television. “Where are you going?”

I threw out the name of a local shopping hub, but I didn’t go into a lot of detail. I knew that if I told him my exact itinerary and how many stops I planned to make, he would opt to stay at home and binge watch martial arts movies. Quite frankly, I wanted the company so I adopted a less-is-more approach.

It worked. He slid his feet into a pair of sneakers, grabbed his coat and hat and gamely followed me out to the car. However, before I could back out of the driveway, curiosity got the better of him. “Exactly where are we going?” “How long will this take?” “What are we getting?” “Why are you going here instead of there?”

I have a notoriously short fuse so naturally, it didn’t take long for me to snap. I informed him that I did not bring him on this field trip so that he could question my every move or second guess my entire plan. After all, he was only holding down furniture when I came along so it wasn’t like he was doing anything important. Where did he get off trying to micromanage the whole operation now that he was in a moving vehicle? “Can’t you show a little bit of faith in me and just go along with the program without interfering?” I asked.

“Yes, I can,” he replied, remaining silent for the rest of the trip.

I felt terrible. I couldn’t very well get too mad at him when I hadn’t given him all of the facts in the first place. Deep down I knew if I had told him my entire plan for the day, there was little chance he would want to accompany me and if I wanted someone who understood the subtle art of retail therapy, I would have called a girlfriend. Instead, I chose to spend time with him and that meant enduring his endless questions without blowing my top in the process. Just as Jesus does for me.

Although the Gospel writers often paint a portrait of perfect obedience when it comes to the early followers of Christ, chances are they were a lot like my husband and didn’t get too far down the road before critiquing His plan or trying to micromanage the movement. Jesus understood that and took them as they were, without losing His temper. He knew these were not devout, faith-filled people but flawed folks with a lot of issues. Issues He was willing to endure as long as in the end, they came along for the ride.

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May Column for Michiana House & Home Magazine: A Space Jam

Mars

Mars

Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when a sponsored Groupon advertisement caught my eye. Evidently, for the low, low price of $15, I can buy an acre of land on Mars. Now, I do not pretend to be an expert on interplanetary Real Estate deals, but I have a few questions about this.

For starters, who exactly owns Mars? It’s not that I don’t trust the oh-so-official-sounding Lunar Embassy, which is located in Nevada of all places, but how did they get to be the official Realtor of the Red Planet? Did the little guy from the Looney Tunes shorts hand over the deed to Mars in order to lay claim to Bugs Bunny’s hole? Was it some kind of a trade deal like that whole Michael Jordan thing in Space Jam? Why is he so keen to get rid of Mars in the first place? What does he know about it that we don’t?

Secondly, how did the head honcho of this Galactic Realty firm decide $15 was a fair price for Martian soil? According to the advertisement, this price represents a 57 percent discount off of the suggested retail price, which by anyone’s definition is an incredible deal, but I remain skeptical. For example, how do we know that an acre of land is the same thing on Mars as it is here? What if it is a different unit of measurement entirely? Has anyone actually seen the comps from other neighboring planets to tell us whether or not Mars actually appraised for this price and has it passed its inspection?
Exactly where are these available acres? Is the entire planet up for grabs or only a specific neighborhood? Will we be given the XY coordinates to our little corner of the universe or is Google Mars already up there taking a more modern image for us to see? I may not be a genius, but I do know location is a key factor when buying a piece of property. Does $15 get me an enviable spot in downtown metropolitan Mars, a sweet spot in suburban Mars or a remote, pre-war, pre-fab, previously uninhabited plot of Outer Mongolia Mars? I think we have a right to know. I also think we should be told what our taxes might be, what kinds of schools we can expect for that money as well as the government’s plan for a steady water supply, but hey, not everyone is as picky as I am.

I know I am probably going to kick myself for not jumping on this ground floor opportunity, but there are just too many unknowns for me to plunk down some cash on my Martian estate just yet. Although my friends tell me to stop analyzing the logistics just do it, I’m content to let other folks cough up their closing costs, invent a way to get there, fight off whatever they find and pave the way for the rest of us.

In the meantime, I am going to do something safe and have a star named after me.

 

 

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Are You there, God? Judy Blume CHANGED “Margaret”

AreYouThereGod_5x5    I have often told the story of the night I was at a friend’s house and was introduced to the book that would change my life forever. Oddly enough this was the same friend that caused me to experience ASMR for the first time…funny how everything ties together, isn’t it? It was a purple book with an art deco design on the cover and it was called “Are You There God, It’s me, Margaret.”

Margaret was the first literary character I identified with. Though she was older than I was at the time (Margaret was 11 while I was 7) I felt an odd kinship with her because her parents were of two different religions and she was supposed to choose her own way, if she wanted to, when she was older. Though I had become Catholic a year before discovering this book, I certainly understood Margaret’s confusion and the private way in which she spoke to God inside her head. Her prayers were honest, direct, and innocent, ranging from boys, to her impending development, wearing a bra for the first time and her confusion about what religion is right for her. I saved the $3.50 for my own copy and read he book so much that it fell asleep between chapters 13 and 14 (which, if you know anything about that book- are the BEST chapters.) I also read it so much that I have huge sections of it memorized. My kids say it’s creepy when I start in: Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everyone there hates me? Please help me, God. Please don’t let New Jersey be too horrible. Thank you. (Feel free to look it up, but I swear I typed it from memory!)

So the other day I happened to be in my local Books-A-Million when I saw a copy of Margaret on the shelf next to Judy Blume’s latest release, In the Unlikely Event. I was so excited to see my old friend even though she’d definitely gotten an upgrade since my early 1980’s Dell Yearling edition. My husband was sweet enough to buy me the book because he knew Margaret and I had some catching up to do but I was chagrined a few hours later when I discovered that Judy Blume CHANGED it.

Before you get your knickers in a twist, the plot is the same. Margaret is not suddenly Catholic or starring in a reality show and  is still obsessed with a certain punctuation mark that is code for a biological condition, but it’s been updated to reflect current products in this area of feminine hygiene and I can’t help feeling a little uneasy about this. I mean, when Forever was re-released (in its original form, mind you) there is a whole disclaimer at the beginning explaining that it was written prior to the AIDS epidemic and does not reflect the current practices encouraged today. But there was nothing to suggest that there was anything different about this version of Margaret so you can imagine my shock. I kept re-reading one section over and over again thinking I was missing something. When I finally realized (after remembering the original line in the book – yes, I really am that sad) that I was right, I shouted, “She changed it!!” and woke the whole house up in the process.

I guess I am just a creature of habit, but Margaret is like the Bible to me. It’s sacred and even it is a little out of date (heck, some of its language was out of date when I first read it) I hate being blindsided by the change. I wouldn’t want Adam and Eve to suddenly be named Tyler and Karen or for Mary and Joseph to make a long trip to NYC to have their baby so I don’t want Margaret to be different. I understand it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but that book is tradition to me…same as the Mass, the sacraments, and everything I love about my faith and when traditions change, it’s hard to adjust to. Though the world will still keep turning, I don’t think I will feel the same until I find an original copy where the words read like they used to and everything is as it used to be.

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Charlie Charlie…I don’t care if you’re there

Charlie     I am currently standing in my dining room, staring at two pencils in the vague shape of a cross (or an X depending on where you are standing) waiting to see if something creepy happens. It’s been 10 minutes…and nothing.

I’m slightly surprised by this. After all, it took a while to get them to balance in the first place, which is interesting considering they are exactly the same length and octagonal. I assumed the flat sides would make this a dab easier, but with the metal and the eraser, there is a definite weight distribution issue and scientific principles being what they are I expected gravity to do its thing and cause something to topple fairly quickly. Yeah, not so much.

My son theorizes that the problem with this experiment may be in the fact that neither pencil is sharpened. He’s also pointed out that they are not sitting atop a piece of loose leaf paper festooned with a lot of yes or no options. However, perhaps the real problem is the fact that I have not called out The Question, guaranteed to get things moving. After all, I’m not that crazy!

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, I am referring to the “Charlie Charlie Challenge” the latest craze to set social media abuzz since the infamous “dress” debacle a few months ago. “Charlie Charlie” is a game in which participants invoke the name of a supposed ancient Mexican demon and ask him yes or no questions. Rumor has it, if you manage to get him to answer your call, or um…pencils…you may not be able to get rid of him, could become possessed and may have to suffer an unpleasant Catholic ritual known as an exorcism. Lest you think this game is is nothing more than harmless teenage fun, real live exorcists have gone on the record (and gained a dab of publicity for themselves) warning kids not to play it. Naturally this means every kid in America is going to be staring at a couple of pencils this weekend and arguing with their friends over whether or not anyone accidentally jostled the table, blew on it or if that minuscule movement denoted a demonic presence or if it was merely coincidental.

Needless to say that as a professional cynic, I have all kinds of problems with this game starting with its name. How many ancient Mexican demons are named “Charlie” in the first place? I might believe Carlos or some derivation thereof but Charlie? That sounds like a cab driver, someone’s uncle or a lovable bald kid with a really cool dog. I have to say if I were going to come up with a bogus demon, I’m pretty sure I could come up with a better name than Charlie. Still, it’s nice and lyrical, everyone can pronounce it and I seem to be the only person questioning it, so…there ya go. I’m also stymied by his choice of communication tools. Pencils? Seriously? Outside of math, no one uses pencils anymore,  and if he insists on writing instruments, shouldn’t we get to see what a demon’s handwriting looks like? Yeah, I think so too.

Another point of contention is why he is only capable of answering a “yes” or “no” question? I suspect this has something to do with the fact that he can’t write, but come on Chuck, work with me here! If you are a representative of the underworld, I think we are entitled to a bit more, don’t you? If I can’t hear your manifesto on why you think evil trumps good, I really don’t want  you to tell me if I am a girl (yes) or if it is going to rain today (no).

I’m also unsure as to why kids think dialing up a demon is a great use of their time. Wouldn’t praying be more effective? We have about a gazillion patron saints to chat with (and they have proven track records to boot) but I guess good and holy people such as St. Francis, St. Theodora Guerin or even Saint Pope John Paul II lack the seedy forbidden fruit draw of satanic stooges such as…Charlie. Here’s a tip: give as much fervor to your prayers as you do balancing these pencils and staring at them and then let me know which one works out in your favor. I guarantee that in one of those scenarios, if you actually get an answer, you aren’t going to be calling a priest begging him to make it go away!

Look, I am not perfect. I played “Bloody Mary” with my friends when I was little (I never really understood the point of that game either, one of my friends swore that her aunt made contact with Janis Joplin so I was willing to give it a whirl) and at one point I had an Ouija board, but deep down inside, I really don’t believe in a lot of that stuff. No offense to demons, ghosts, spirits or the things that go bump in the night, but I don’t. If they don’t want to believe in me, that’s fine. In fact, I think it’s a fair trade off. However, I also don’t see the big whoop-dee-do about kids gathering around the table to argue about whether or not they made contact with the other side. I’m amazed that in this high tech world, kids will still gather around the most rudimentary of materials in order to give themselves a bit of a fright and oddly enough – it gives me a warm glow to know that the more kids change, the more they stay the same.

Of course if you are going to call on someone from the hereafter, why not Jimi Hendrix, Elvis or Freddie Mercury? My guess is that reaching them will have the same success rate as “Charlie” and your parents won’t freak out as much.

 

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Hail, Holy Queen

May Crowning   It was early one morning in May during my second grade year when my best friend arrived at my house to catch the school bus holding two droopy tulips that were wrapped in a damp paper towel.

“What’s up with the flowers?” I asked, hoping he had not developed some weird boy/girl thing on his teacher, classmate or worse yet…me.

I shouldn’t have worried.  “I’m taking them to Mary,” he said, like the answer should have been obvious.

“You mean Jesus’ Mom Mary?” I clarified. (Just because I am Catholic does not mean that I presume every mention of the name Mary has something to do with the Blessed Mother.)

“Of course I mean Jesus’ Mom! How many other Marys do we know?” It was a rhetorical question. He and I hung out with the same bunch of kids and not one of them was named Mary. He also informed me that this was the day in which everyone was to bring in a flower of some kind to be placed at the base of her statue during a special Mass and someone would actually have the honor of crowning Our Lady with a ring of roses. “It’s the May Crowning.”

He acted like I should have known about this, but I didn’t and for reasons that I still cannot explain, I have ZERO memory of this event prior to that day. Although I went to the same school the previous year and I can’t believe they didn’t have a May Crowning Mass, this was all new to me. I suppose it’s possible I was sick that day, or simply didn’t notice it, but a flower parade a coronation, a big, and the singing of “Hail, Holy Queen” (hands down one of the best Mass songs EVER!) are kinda hard to forget.

“And everyone has to bring a flower?” I asked, making sure to have my facts straight. After all, I had dressed up as Mary earlier that year for All Saints Day and I was not about to let her down but showing up to her big shindig empty handed.

“Of course!” He told me.

That was all I needed to hear. I quickly located my mother, hurriedly explained the situation, told her that I needed a flower of some kind immediately or I would be the only kid in school not to have something to put at the feet of the Blessed Virgin. (You must imagine me saying all of this in a single, urgent breath as if it were a life or death scenario.)

There was only one problem. My mother didn’t have any flowers. I mean none. The only thing of color we had growing in our yard was the occasional dandelion, but something told me that wasn’t the kind of flower Mary would appreciate. Dandelions are good for moms, grandmas, and a nice neighbor lady you consider to be family, but NOT the mother of God.

“Julie I don’t have any flowers to give you,” My mother said.

“Well we’ve got to do something because I cannot show up at school with nothing. Lookit…he’s got two tulips and I’ve got nada!”

My mother checked all of my facts with my friend, who at the worldly age of eight knew all about these things of course and he assured her that every child was expected to bring something. With the bus due to arrive at any minute and nothing but a potted  philodendron to send with me, my mother came up with a desperate plan. She sent my brother out to hack off some blooming forsythia limbs off of the bush in the backyard.

Now, I suppose he could have snipped off one little branch and that would have been sufficient, but instead he clipped off a ton of twigs, which my mother placed in a Folger’s coffee can wrapped in aluminum foil. This was not a simple little “flower,” it was a freaking arrangement!!

And wasn’t I proud? Children often equate love with how big or small a present is. Though St. Therese championed the little ways in which we could demonstrate our love, deep down I knew bigger was always better and I was certainly going to score some brownie points with the Higher Ups when Mary saw how we went above and beyond for her.

My reverie was short lived. Apparently I was far from the only person who did not know about this event and several of my school chums showed up with nothing. My teacher, thrilled with my largesse suggested that I share with the class by snipping off stems to distribute so that everyone could have something to give. I did as I was told, but I was chagrinned that my foresight (or rather my buddy’s since this was his caper in the first place)was now being leveraged to bail  everyone else out of their own failings. I’m sure I should have been charitable about this, but needless to say, that was not in my nature at the time.

From that day forward, I was never without something to offer on May Crowning. The following year, my mother actually planted tulip bulbs and daffodils in the yard and while she never said that they were for May Crowning purposes, when the school changed the policy to allow everyone to bring in a dollar to buy a cut stem from a local florist, my mother’s crop winnowed out. Coincidence? I doubt it. Still, it goes to show that mothers, whether Biblical figures or not are the most special people in our lives and they all deserve a coronation whether it’s raising a young man to fulfill His destiny or simply making sure you aren’t the odd kid out, they go above and beyond the call of duty and are there for us while they are here and in the Hereafter.

 

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