Posts Tagged ‘Catholicism


The 12 Ways of Christmas: midnight mass

[Part 11]

Mom and Dad had some presents under the tree early, the ones from them and Grandma and Uncle Dennis and Aunt Kay, but they were off limits until Christmas. The ones from Santa, of course, came later. I didn’t have to worry about those, but these were there to taunt me.

Most of them were clothes. Who cared, right? But some of them, the smaller ones, probably—the strangely shaped ones, right?—those were toys.

If I was good enough (if I begged and pestered my parents enough, nicely, gently), they would let me open one present—just one—before we left for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I don’t think they for one second expected me to not beg. I don’t think I ever convinced them of anything. I think they always had one intended for Christmas Eve. But it was one of those child-and-parent games we played. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: midnight mass’


Guerilla Catholicism

Sometimes religion comes at you from the unlikeliest of places. We are accustomed to the subway preachers and the greeting card sermons of certain American heads of state and stumping political candidates. I see South Americans in my neighborhood cross themselves whenever we pass St. Joan of Arc on the bus. However, there are some places you just don’t expect to find it.

For example, the other day, my husband was paying for an Ambien prescription and was leaving the counter when the pharmacist asked him, “Are you Catholic?” Apparently she was tipped off by his last name.

Yes, he said, he was raised Catholic.

“Oh,” she said, “Well if you pray, you might try praying to the patron saint of sleepers.”

It was a sweet gesture, to be sure, meant in all earnestness and out of a sense of neighborliness, but I thought it a bit odd and maybe even ironic. I don’t consider it a resounding endorsement of the drugs she is dispensing when a pharmacist suggests dosages of prayer as treatment. I can imagine, in a generic way, that prayer and meditation might help bring the body to a calmed, centered state, better able to sleep than the stressed-out, jittery creatures we have become. But from the medical profession it sounds kinda like: Give it up, buddy. Better start saying your prayers.

It was a saint he had not heard of. (There are so many of them.) After a little bit of research, all I could find was the legend of St. Dymphna. Her name is occasionally invoked, apparently, in matters of sleep disorder.

Hers is another one of those heartwarming tales of human misery so popular among we Catholics. Family values stuff. Her mother dies, and her father is unable to remarry to his satisfaction. He takes a fancy to her, she being the next best thing genetically, and tries to rape her. When she refuses him and fights back, he kills her in a rage.

I guess what we learn from these stories is that it could always be worse. That must be where we derive the comfort of prayer. I can’t sleep, but it’s not like my dad is trying to do me. So … who am I to complain? Let’s just see what’s on TV.


Erin Go Blah

On March 17th, he’s the man.

St. Patrick’s Day just ended, and not a moment too soon.

I never was too jazzed about St. Patrick’s Day. And that’s fine. If it’s your bag, you’re welcome to it. St. Patrick doesn’t need my approval. Since driving the serpents (or pagans) from Ireland, he’s been driving millions of Americans to drink. Far be it from me to quarrel with ill-advised drinking binges. I just wonder if it all gets a bit insulting at times.

It’s one thing for Irish folks to go out and celebrate their heritage with a few too many pints and all the corned beef and cabbage they can handle — and even for their non-Irish friends to join them in the revelry. Far more than the feast day of a Catholic saint, revered for various and sundry miraculous works and acts of selflessness, this day is now an occasion for people to tramp through town, bar to bar, from early morning to late night, in green wigs and enormous green Cat-in-the-Hat chapeaux, shamrocks painted on their faces. It is a bastardization of a religious observation-turned-national-holiday. It is an entire culture reduced to a cartoon. For many on St. Patrick’s Day, moreso than any other day, “Irish” equals “drunk.”

New York is the city of parades. Everybody’s got one: lovers of Christmas, trick-or-treaters, wearers of Easter bonnets, gays, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Irish. We love identity politics in this city. It’s a defense against anonymity. And I love a parade, but honestly I’d rather watch golf. And so would a lot of other people, I guess. I didn’t see heaving throngs of spectators yesterday on TV.

This year’s parade was plagued with bad publicity. Some Irish groups got upset because the MTA banned alcohol from suburban transit lines. They claim the MTA is targeting and discriminating against Irish. Truthfully, maybe they should ban alcohol on all holidays, to be fair. Seems to me, though, folks should have no trouble getting their drink on well before or well after riding that train.

The GLBT community has long been upset because we are excluded from being publicly gay in the parade. It’s a long-standing struggle. Irish-American lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has boycotted the parade for this very reason, opting instead to march with the Irish in Dublin at their invitation.

Governor Eliot Spitzer wasn’t there today, either. He was upstate in Rochester, the first time in 12 years a New York governor wasn’t in Manhattan on this day. Some have seen this as a slight against parade organizers. Some have seen this as quiet opposition to the gay ban. (I doubt this. Spitzer doesn’t seem to do much quietly.)

The latest controversy this year involves a dispute between parade organizers and the FDNY. The firefighters were moved from the front of the march back about 35 spots as apparent punishment for an episode last year. Apparently, a contingent of New Orleans firefighters who joined in the festivities to thank New York for its support after Hurricane Katrina held things up a bit and threw the parade a half hour off schedule. Oh, and Committee President John Dunleavy also said that the firemen are usually drunk in the parade anyway, so nyaa nyaa!

It seems like everyone’s fighting about this parade. Only a non-native New Yorker such as myself would dare ask: Is it even worth it?

the untallied hours