I was in Ireland last weekend for a First Communion. My nephew’s. The style was something to behold. Young girls dressed up to the nines, complete with parasols. Young lads in three-piece suits and flash ties, hands in pockets, doing great imitations of their dads. Mums in high heels, calves stretching under the strain. Dads in the open-necked casual Miami Vice look. A regular fashion show in which the First Communion took a meagre second place.
I’ve been told that I’m a ‘pick’n’mix’ Catholic – one who chooses which part of Roman Catholicism suits me – and which I’d sooner leave alone. I don’t agree with the Church’s stance on homosexuality. I don’t think that a Church, which was ultimately fashioned by man, should be so exclusive. My God doesn’t pick and choose who should be let in. I have similar problems with the Vatican having so much money when its people around the world are wondering where their next meal comes from. My God encourages sharing of wealth rather than hoarding. I am a practising Catholic insofar as I go to Mass every Sunday and on the few holy days that haven’t been moved to Sundays for the general convenience of a busy public. It doesn’t matter than I don’t understand the sermon – I know the prayers by heart – and it’s a rare priest these days that has something to say worth listening to. But my week is simply not the same if I miss Mass.
In the church, the kids were very well behaved. It was their big day. It was the parents who showed a complete lack of reverence, treating the occasion like a family reunion. In the line to receive Communion, two dads were laughing out loud discussing at full volume whether hands should go right over left or left over right. Then one said with some authority: right over left because everyone knows that Jesus was left-handed – it’s written in the bible. No silence. No solemnity. No sacrament. No clue what was going on. Most probably hadn’t been in a church since they were married.
My parents say the rosary every night. When I’m home, I say it, too. And I know that I am the last of that particular generation. I’ve been brought up in the Catholic church with a set a principles and values that have been instilled in me over the years – not by lecture but by example. Some I never really owned; others are very much a part of who I am.
This week, I am grateful for how my parents reared me – for their example, their respect, and their unfailing faith in God and in me.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52