Year of Sundays

Mary and her Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, in his golden, fleece diapers, with his curled-up, fat, balled-up little fists pawin' at the air...

If the AMEZ Church was God from the inside out, The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother was God from the outside in.

First, let’s ponder that name, shall we? I mean, as if it’s not bad enough that the Catholics have the market on guilt cornered, they have to go and name their gorgeous 62-acre shrines with words like SORROWFUL. Poor Mary. She sure got the shit end of the deal, didn’t she? She got to experience the joy of natural childbirth in a barn and she didn’t even get to have a roll in the hay first. What a gyp.

But the Pietà! Pretty magnificent if I do say so myself.

Above the portico inside The Grotto Chapel, you’ll find the phrase, “BEHOLD THY MOTHER,” which obviously had me thinking about my own mother, who had just recently taken issue with my public use of the term “motherfucker,” a word she hates because of its literal meaning and a word I love simply because of the way it feels in my mouth. I mean really, can you think of a word with a naughtier sounding cadence? I can’t. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, now I’m curious to see how good it feels to say it while performing oral sex.

I only mention this matriarchal vocabulary feud as a method of illustrating just how out of place I felt watching Catholic Mass at The Grotto. I felt exactly how I feel every time I shop at Whole Foods: like someone took a Sharpie and scrawled the word IMPOSTOR across my forehead.

I don’t think I’ve seen a more serious crowd in my life. I kept thinking, WHO DIED!? But then they’d remind me: Jesus.  But are all Catholic masses so utterly devoid of joy? I understand (mostly) the need for a little reverence with your religion, but honestly? Would it hurt you to SMILE every once in a while? God is meant to make you HAPPY, not suicidal.

Looking around the pews at The Grotto, it struck me that everyone there was trying so hard to be GOOD. All the good little boys and girls lined up in rows to make their parents proud, just like their parents had made THEIR parents proud and so on and so forth. You go to Catholic Mass because you HAVE TO not because you actually WANT to and that struck a sour chord with me. If the obscenity debate with my mother didn’t convince you, let me be the first to admit: I long ago gave up ever trying to be GOOD. Just like my mother gave up ever trying to fix my potty mouth. I’ll take honesty over goodness any day of the week. Sundays included.

It didn’t help that the Philippino priest had a very distracting accent, so I knew the Grotto wasn’t brimming with fans there to see their dynamic leader in action. At one point he was going on about a 19-year-old girl who had recently died in a car accident. She was a shining beacon of Christian goodness whose time came too early. He kept quoting all her boyfriends, how wonderful they thought she was. Whenever she walked into a party, apparently, her breasts lit up the whole place.

Wait. Maybe he said PRESENCE? Hard to tell.

He did have a lovely singing voice, though.

My personal moment of Catholic zen (shut up, it’s all the same to agnostic little me) came during communion. Not that they could ever tell, but if you’re not Catholic, you’re not actually allowed to take the body and blood of Christ, no matter how anemic said blood looks to be (seriously, PINK wine? WTF?). But everyone is welcome to cross their hands over their chest and receive a blessing from the priest, regardless of denomination or lack thereof.

I wanted precisely NOTHING to do with the taking of such a blessing. Talk about Creepy with a capital “C” and a chapter in a bad Dan Brown novel. But my son, the adventurous seven-year-old soul he is, wanted to get up with all the other believers.

So Joel took one for the team and walked him down the aisle, past our fellow parishioners and up to the altar where they both crossed their arms, bowed their heads and received a true Catholic blessing. It was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever witnessed.

To say I felt truly blessed that Sunday would be an understatement.

He certainly has the hair for it.

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