Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Only the Good Die Young

Being Catholic is a very funny thing. And by funny I mean both comical and odd. Out of all of the Christian denominations, we probably have the best sense of humor our ourselves. Which comes in handy as we are the butt of plenty of jokes --half of which we make ourselves.
But being Catholic is also funny -- less in the ha-ha way and more in the 'that's-strange' way -- because it can make very little sense to those who are outside looking in. While not an intimidating faith (of course, what do I know? I've always been a part of it), our many rules and rites (and loopholes and justifications) form a complicated web that's hard for non-Catholics to comprehend. Sometimes I'm convinced that Catholics themselves don't even understand the ins and outs and whys and whats of what we do all of the time. How, then, is anyone else supposed to get it?
The other funny thing about being Catholic is that although most of us claim that our faith never wavers, I'll admit that we don't always act like it. We may do some things that require major repenting, but we never say we've stopped being Catholic. This is, of course, where the comedic aspect comes back in, since Catholics are (in)famous for our heavy guilt that one sometimes keeps us from committing the 'fun' sins (I may be headed to hell now for calling any sin 'fun'). We're known for our drinking (hello, St. Patrick's Day), and as a product of 13 years of Catholic school, I've been able to observe that chastity is not the best practiced lesson in our faith.
The thing is, we know all of this. We know we aren't perfect and we laugh at ourselves. A LOT. My senior year --at my Catholic high school, mind you -- I played the gospel nun in a show called "Nunsense." I got lots of jokes after this, but whatev, I got to sing all soulful for once, and we wore hilarious habits, and... well, and that's not the point. The point is, the whole play was full of sexual innuendos and references to the hilarities of Catholic school, rulers and all. And we performed it at my Catholic high school and at half of the other Catholic schools in the area because the administration thought it was that damn funny. They actually thought that dirty jokes referencing St. Peter (without the pearly gates) and a crucifix whistle were knee slappers.
Anyway, you're probably wondering what prompted me to suddenly discuss my faith, since it's not something I normally do. Well, today was Ash Wednesday and I was reminded of it on every street downtown. Sometimes I forget how Catholic the city of Chicago is -- that is, until the beginning of Lent when I see black smudges on every other forehead and until St. Patrick's Day when all you hear about is the South Side parade and all of the crazy Irish Catholics running amok.
Today my roommate said that the line for getting ashes was around the block on her lunch break. I went after work and there wasn't much of one, but I thought it was semi-hilarious that we could just walk in, kneel down, get the ashes rubbed on our foreheads, and then proceed to the nearest exit sign. It was like drive-through Catholicism today. No mass or anything. Things like this are another reason I think a lot of people laugh at us. Certain rituals are ridiculously outdated (women not being allowed to be priests; priests not being allowed to marry, although there are exceptions to that), but then we also try to be really progressive and adaptable in other areas. My parish in college supported the LGBTQ community pretty openly and my Catholic high school didn't banish the four girls from my class who graduated pregnant. And then we also make sacraments and rituals fit into our daily lives, like today with the blessing on the go. Don't get me wrong, I love being Catholic, I really, truly, honestly do. But I have to chuckle at some of our ideas. And, really, I just couldn't help but think about all of that today and how Catholicism as a whole gets a bad name, when we're just the fun-loving rascals of the Christian family. We might mess up every now and then, but for the most part, we're not really going to hurt anyone. Either way, we probably make you look good -- and hey, at least we're entertaining, right?
BTW, while we're on the topic, for Lent I decided to give up chocolate and also to make it a point to pray everyday. It's a habit I got out of, and would like to start up again, because sadly, even though my faith is always there, sometimes I forget about it :-/. Is anyone else who celebrates Easter giving anything up/doing something for Lent?


chandra said...

OMG - I am totally catholic as well and #1, LOVED this, #2 totally agree with you!!

I'm not really much of a "practicing" catholic... I can't even remember the last time I went to church (that's bad, huh?), but I do try to follow Lent each year. I'm awful at remembering the no meat on Friday thing! I still haven't decided what to give up for Lent this year though. Any suggestions? My friends suggested I give up guys. LOL

Amy said...

Hi! I'm Catholic too and haven't yet decided on what to do for Lent this year. You actually reminded me! I think I'l try "doing" something instead of giving it up, like being nicer to family, be more positive, etc.

I haven't seen Nunsense but now I'm all interested. It sounds hilarious! And I 100% agree with you on the Catholic school true.