I went to church a couple of months ago, and I didn’t burst into flames or anything like that, contrary to my expectations.
I was born and raised Catholic, and went to Catholic grade school and high school, but I’m not a practicing Catholic. I’m about as Catholic as Martin Luther.
My mom and dad came into town and I thought they might want to go to church on a Sunday, being Catholics in the non-nominal, actual practical practicing way.
“I’m touched that you’d take us to church,” my mom said. “I’m shocked,” my dad said. “I mean, I’m not shocked.” Apparently, my parents thought I might burst into flames, too.
I had forgotten some of the words, but I still knew most of the steps. I go about once a year, with some of my family at Christmas, but this time, making the sign of the cross, I started to remember church as a kid.
I remember standing in one place that whole time was a real problem. Shifting my weight back and forth, back and forth, right leg to left leg to right leg . . . locking my knees, then unlocking my knees. Curling my foot and uncurling my foot. I must have gotten better at standing somewhere along the way because it wasn’t so hard this time.
Also the “peace be with you” hand shakes and Lord’s Prayer hand holding were no longer fraught with adolescent anxiety. If I was at the end of my family in the pew I always worried about who’s hand I would have to hold. And wherever I stood, I worried about the “peace be with you” handshakes. Who was standing behind me, who would I see for the first time when I turned to shake hands? I had to always be prepared, in case it was a pretty girl.
After the Eucharist, I sat in my pew and watched the stream of people walk up, receive communion, and then walk past me back to their seats. You’re supposed to muse on God and such while you sit there after communion, but when I was a teenager, somewhat less piously than I think Jesus would have liked, I used to watch the girls who walked by, again, hoping for pretty girls and trying to look devout and sexy at the same time . . . (go ahead, try it). And then there was the guilt!
Of course, now as the crowd walked by, I noticed the parishioners who had swaddled babies in their arms, or held hands with their tottering rugrats. Aww cute. Apparently my biological man clock is ticking loudly somewhere.