Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An Awkward Catholic Moment

There is this thing that happened to me at Mass one time.  I thought I would tell about it.  I was reminded of it because of all the "birth control mandate" lawsuit stuff that is happening right now. 

There was this retired priest that was "in residence" (for lack of a better word) at the parish we used to attend.  He would say Mass and help the pastor out in other ways.  He was a bit older and had a few health problems, so he could be a little "difficult," at times.  I know that he often didn't feel well.  But, from the stories he told about his life, I don't think he could ever have been described as possessing an "easy-going" personality.  I don't mean to be too hard on him in this little anecdote.  But, whatever.

As many of you know, I homeschooled my kids for many years, so this gave us the opportunity to attend daily Mass.  We didn't go every single day, but we went often.  My son, an altar server for many years, would frequently serve at these weekday morning Masses. 

Anyway, one day, the priest described above announced -- at the end of Mass -- that he had been given a rather large gift certificate to a local restaurant.  He kindly offered to have some of us go to breakfast with him the following day.  This was a very nice offer, and illustrates the truly kind and generous nature lurking beneath his sometimes caustic exterior. So, when he asked for a show of hands of those who would like to accompany him, I foolishly stuck mine into the air.  He asked how many kids I had, so that he could include them in the count.  Now, this was a rather odd question, as he had been seeing and interacting with my family for years.  But, whatever.  "Three, but two are away at college," I told him.  From his perch upon the altar, he fixed me with a rather withering gaze, and made the following comment:  "THREE???  You're CATHOLIC.  How come you only have THREE KIDS???"  I can't remember exactly how I responded.  I was rather taken aback.  Thankfully, the rest of the daily Mass crowd gave me many sympathetic glances, and after Mass they greeted me with many sympathetic words and hugs.  Because -- after all -- that was a highly inappropriate question.  Especially for a priest who is standing on the altar (dressed in all his vestments) to ask a 40-something mom standing in the congregation.  I pretty much wanted to say, "It's none of your f***ing business."  But, I controlled myself.  And -- for those of you who know me well -- you realize what an effort that was.  I tried to just chalk the whole thing up to the side effects of his medication.

When I hear people complain, though, about the all-male clergy/hierarchy of the Catholic Church behaving insensitively toward the crosses women must bear in their sexual lives, I think about this incident.  And I think about other incidents, as well.  I understand the feminists marching around with their signs, and I have a lot of sympathy for Kathleen Sebelius.  Don't get me wrong.  There is much truth and beauty in many of the Church's teachings on sexuality.  But, where the rubber hits the road -- at the intersection of the actual women and the actual priests -- there is often something left to be desired. 

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