February 12, 2005

Hypocrisy At Its Finest

In keeping with the topic of big people (adults) rearranging the minds of little people (children) I thought it appropriate to share a less-than-delightful experience I had while attending elementary school. One of these days I will actually post something on a positive note and there will probably be much rejoicing amongst readers ... but until that mood strikes me, I have more junk to get rid of.

I attended Catholic elementary school for eight glorious years. On occasion I will make references to these years in conversation, always referring to it in affectionate tones and saying "back while I was doing time." Okay so it wasn't all that dramatic ... there were some good times ... like the day in seventh grade when Tommy J got expelled for flipping off Monsignor Quinn. Tommy died about six years later after drinking himself into oblivion. But I digress ...

My grandmother was gravely ill for a time, and mom had asked my sister and I to go to the church and light a candle for her. It was mom's belief that by performing this ritual we could summon God so that he would pay grandma a visit and keep her safe. We were eight and ten years old, but off we went, ever hopeful to save grandma's life.

We walked into the huge, dimly lit church and headed up to the front where, on either side of the altar, each in its own alcove, stood larger than life statues behind a bed of candles. There was a long metal stick you could use to pass the flame from an already lit candle to an unlit one. Immediately in front of these shrines, there was a small, padded bench on which one could kneel to pray afterward. I could never figure out how come God wouldn't hear me unless I was kneeling.

The church was quiet, as always, and being a Saturday afternoon, there was no one to be seen sitting in any of the hundred or so rows of pews. You could hear a pin drop ... and my sister and I only spoke in soft whispers to one another as we each lit a candle for grandmother. We knelt together and dutifully stared at the statue of Mary whilst thinking how great those brownies in the oven were going to taste when we got home. Somehow, Mary would translate this to prayer and take our message back to God for us, seeing how we lit the candles and all. I don't mean to be flippant. Wait. Yes, I guess I do.

Suddenly Father Clyne burst through the huge oak doors at the rearmost of the church and screamed at the top of his lungs "WHAT ARE YOU GIRLS DOING?" That we didn't each have coronaries at that moment was a miracle in itself. We turned slowly and watched as Father Clyne (da faddah) came rushing up the center aisle, shaking his fist at us. As we stood there, frozen with fear, he approached us yelling "WELL? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" My sister very meekly revealed our mission ... to which he replied in an angry voice "WELL YOU DIDN'T PUT MONEY IN THE BOX! YOU HAVE TO PUT MONEY IN THE BOX TO LIGHT A CANDLE!"

Now folks, we all exaggerate from time to time, but may the sun never shine again if I am exaggerating in the least here. That is EXACTLY what da good faddah said to, no bellowed at us.

We turned quickly as he pointed to a small metal box connected to the bed of candles. We both noticed the tiny slit in the box, but between us we didn't have so much as a penny to right this situation! How could he know we didn't put money in the box? And more than this ... why does Mary charge a fee for her services? "We didn't know," my sister choked out. "WELL YOU SHOULD KNOW... do you think these candles were FREE to the church?" said the good (?) Father. I was only eight, but my mind immediately flashed to the little pre-stamped money envelopes that we (every member of every parish family) had to stick in the basket during Mass each week. Even back then I didn't do Math, yet I knew somehow that in the course of five years or so, all my quarters more than paid for one measly candle! But since I wanted to live, I remained silent.

We were escorted from the church, lectured all the way about church-economics and stealing. Yes. Stealing. My little brain was about to burst by then. I couldn't wait to get outdoors.

My sister and I didn't say too much on the walk home. At least not the kinds of things I can comfortably print here.

Father Clyne died from a brain tumor, but not till he was well into his 70s. Stupid bastard shoulda lit a candle.

4 Comments:

Blogger Swifty said...

Please Carol, don't get me started on the Catholic Church! Da Faddah! It's the way you tell them. LOL

12:50 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...

Hi Carol,

Again, you've told a great story and really made me feel that I was there.

The story brought back my own memories of going to Church and I remembered the reasons I don't like organized religion. Keep up the great posts.

Beth

2:49 PM  
Blogger Wally said...

Carol,

I could never figure out why we had to eat fish on every Friday for so many years, and then "just like that" it was okay. But, I guess I shouldn't complain. At least when the Father of our parish was invited over to our house for a Friday night supper... yeah; nothin' "fishy" would end up happening to me or my brother!

10:36 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

You should have told the father that, as long as you had already stolen, you might as well commit murder while you're at it, especially since you were in the right place for absolution. "Bless me father, for I am about to sin...big time." :p

For fun, you should check out these guys. Their introduction to their religion claims everyone is guilty of breaking every commandment.

11:56 AM  

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