Posts Tagged ‘roman catholic church’

It’s been a week. Quite a week.

Last Wednesday, my wife went in for surgery (she’s doing well, thanks), and since then I’ve been on caregiver duty. Thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), I’ve been able to take two weeks off work to provide for her post-op needs, plus to do all the many, many things she normally does around the house. Things got more complicated when the cat came down with a UTI, and I had to rush her to the vet the day after my wife came home from hospital. It all came to (what I hope was) a climax yesterday, when I ran up to the shops for groceries, did a few loads of laundry, made the bed, brewed tea, monitored meds for wife and cat, unclogged a toilet, replaced light bulbs in the kitchen, paid bills (including property tax . . . ouch!), hemmed two of the kitchen towels I wove over the weekend (pictured right), braised lamb shanks (for me), cooked a frozen pizza (for her), and sat with my wife while she watched the finale of His Dark Materials (sloppy, in my view; a major disappointment, in hers).

So it wasn’t a surprise that I was a tad bushed when it came time to hit the sack. My brain, however, had other ideas; it went on a ramble through old memories, including one I hadn’t thought of in a very long time: the first time I argued with a grownup.

When I was eight, my step-mother decided it was high time for me to be given some religious education. My father had always been rather irreligious (though he believed in God). My mother, if anything, had been Episcopalian, which my father characterized as the closest thing to a non-religious religion. After Mom’s death, though, my dad remarried and my step-mother brought Roman Catholicism to the party, and she determined that I’d been living the heathen lifestyle for far too long. I needed to be baptized and to receive First Communion. In order to do this, I needed some remedial education, so she enrolled me in the catechism classes at her church.

I was not a good student, this according to Sister Catherine Michael, and for reasons that shall become evident.

Every winter, my step-mom’s folks came out from Minnesota, fleeing the frigid clime of the Iron Range for the springlike (to them) weather of the SF Bay Area. They stayed with us from Thanksgiving to Epiphany, and the entire season was a minefield—at least in those early years—as I navigated the no-man’s land between life with and without grandparental supervision and guidance.

It was the winter after I began my catechism classes. We were in the back yard, grandfather and I, watching over my infant brothers, and I was complaining of one of the school bullies.

I summed up my opinion thusly: “He can go to Hell, for all I care,”

Grandfather frowned, raised a warning finger. “That’s not a word we say,” he told me. “That’s a swear word, and swearing is a sin.”

I compared this bit of information with some of the “discussions” I’d had with Sister Catherine as we were going over the various spiritual realms. Heaven, Purgatory, Limbo, and yes, Hell. There was a serious disconnect here, somewhere.

I knew about swear words, knew many of the words themselves, in fact. Swear words were the ones Dad said when he smacked his thumb with the hammer or spilled something in the kitchen. They were often (but not always) followed by a muttered, half-hearted apology, and were never used in company. Those were sins. Other, minor epithets like “damn” were allowed when fishing and when grownups came over to visit, but only among grownups. The word “Hell,” though—Grandfather’s decree that uttering it, too, was a sin, well, that just didn’t make sense.

“But . . . it’s a place,” I said. “I just want him to go to a place.”

“It’s a swear word, and swearing is a sin,” he repeated, and in a manner that allowed no further discussion on the topic.

If I’d known the word “arbitrary,” I would have used it. It was a good thing I didn’t.

Grandfather and I had many such a tête-à-tête, ranging in topics from what constitutes sin to the proper way to drive a vehicle through a curve. Most of them ended as this first one did, with me biting my tongue and Grandfather confident that he’d gotten his point across and contributed to my social education.

Just why this anecdote came to mind last night as I was drifting off, I cannot say. Roman Catholicism didn’t “take” with me. Sure, I made it through baptism and First Communion, but it should also be noted that the first class I ever cut was Sister Catherine Michael’s catechism class. And it’s not like the “Hell” discussion was a seminal moment for me; I literally haven’t thought of that conversation in dozens of years. Maybe it was because of the ridiculous “resolution” of His Dark Materials, followed by my wife’s explanation of her utter disgust at the ending of the Narnia books (and her subsequent decree: “If it has a Christ figure, I’m out.”)

Regardless, it gave me a nice chuckle at the end of a long day.

But now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bathroom to clean.


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[Crackle Crackle]

“Yes, Your Holiness. We’re receiving you.”

[Crackle Crackle]

“Please say again. All after ‘atheists can go to heaven.'”

Yesterday, while I was talking to my dad, the earth moved in California, a bridge on I-5 here in Washington crumbled and fell into the Skagit River, and NBC reported that Pope Francis said atheists can go to heaven.

It was a weird 35 minutes.

Thankfully, no damage was reported from the earthquake.

Thankfully, no one was killed in the bridge collapse, and the three people injured are all in stable condition or better.

Thankfully, the Pope’s announcement did not crack the Seventh Seal and usher in the Apocalypse. (more…)

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