My theme for A to Z this year is a wildly different, but very exciting, HERE'S TO YOU all month long. 26 posts to be precise. The most difficult part was narrowing down the 26. All of you deserve your own post. What you will find here is a post by the featured blogger, with traveling music chosen by me that complements said post, and two links. One will link back to the original post and the other to the main page. This year's A to Z is all about making new friends!
How To Piss Off An Entire Catholic Congregation was the very first post I ever read by Phoenix over at Res ipsa loquitur. My first thought was, "She writes like me." My second thought was, "She writes the way you THINK you write... Not the way you actually write." My third thought was, "She writes like I wish I could write." Now I think that I am just lucky that I found her blog in the first place and that we became friends. And, I wish she wrote more often. Maybe this will inspire her!
Cue the traveling music:
How to piss off an entire Catholic congregation by Phoenix
So before I get started on this (sadly) true story, I just wanted to
wish everyone a happy...good lord, how many events can we pack into one
weekend? Okay, here we go: Happy belated Lincoln's Birthday, Valentine's
Day, Chinese New Year, and President's Day; and Happy Mardi Gras today.
And Happy Ash Wednesday tomorrow.
Also, Benni surprised me and
planned a getaway to Seattle for Valentine's Day weekend, so tomorrow or
Thursday I should get around to posting the three gazillion pictures I
took during our trip, only I promise I'll narrow it down. To one
million. But today...today is a story about Ash Wednesday.
you should know from the beginning is that I'm not Catholic. I was not
raised Catholic, I have very little experience with Catholicism besides
debating my two best friends in high school (both of whom were raised
Catholic) about the nature of birth control and suicide (in that order)
and while I have nothing against Catholicism, as some of my nearest and
dearest are Catholic, I am woefully ignorant when it comes to Catholic
beliefs, practices, and rituals.
This would become painfully clear on one fateful Ash Wednesday.
seventh/eighth/ninth grade (it all blurs together after awhile) we had a
sort of cultural exchange project that we had to undertake - which
meant we, sheltered junior high students that we were, were charged with
the assignment to go outside our comfort zone by going to a restaurant
that served different food, partaking in worshiping a religion different
from the one we were raised in, or attending any other type of cultural
event with which we were not familiar. Most students hated this project
because the goal of it was to make yourself uncomfortable. But me? I
was all for it.
See, I have this really cute personality trait
that most people call "Leaps Before She Looks," which usually ends up
with me having egg (or blood) on my face and my feet in my mouth. I rush
in, totally confident and enthusiastic, to less than stellar results
sometimes. It's why in my profile I took the time to mention I was
One of my Catholic best friends kindly took it
upon herself to invite me to her church's Ash Wednesday service, which I
attended with her immediate family and grandparents. We settled in to
church and things seemed to be going well enough (lots of standing up
and sitting down, do they do that to keep you awake?) when the hitch in
the plan was revealed: no one took the time to explain to me what the
hell was going on.
So when someone smeared dirt on my forehead,
no one really explained why. In fact, asking questions about why there
was now dirt on my forehead was being actively discouraged, so I just
sat there and assumed that here I was, getting cultured, and at some
point somebody would tell me something.
in fact, would have been fine, it would have been perfectly okay for me
to not know why there was ashes (not dirt, as I learned later) smudged
onto my forehead, except that I also didn't know that I wasn't supposed
to wash them off.
In the church.
Using the basin of holy water at the front.
Yeah, that happened.
I'm splashing around in the water, rinsing off these ashes, when I
start to hear what I can only liken to a dull roar, which is in fact the
rest of the Catholic congregation realizing that not only am I washing
off my ashes, I am in fact TAINTING THEIR ENTIRE SUPPLY OF HOLY WATER.
There are screams, shouting, pointing, and I think my best friend's
sweet elderly grandmother called me something bad under her breath.
Those Italians, they sure can name-call, eh?
I'm steered by the
elbow out to the church parking lot where the family does this James
Bond-style toss of me into the minivan and off we zoom, everyone sitting
there quietly with clenched teeth while I look around, confused. Was I
not supposed to wash dirt off my forehead? Didn't Jesus frequently wash
dirt off his forehead- no wait, that was his feet. But still?
finally get an explanation that on Ash Wednesday, ashes are placed on
your forehead as a sign of repentance for your sins. Which, incidentally
enough, means that splashing around in the holy water to rub the ashes
off is heavily discouraged. And in retrospect, it would have been
really, REALLY good if I'd known that coming into this whole thing.
Whoever said ignorance is bliss has never faced the wrath of a 90 year
old Catholic Italian woman.
So every once in a while (okay, about
eight times a week), my friends lovingly and half-jokingly tell me that
I'm going to hell for whatever latest off-color joke or crazy scheme
I've come up with. And I usually tell them, Yeah. I already know I'm
going to hell. I've been headed there since seventh grade.
Her profile says, "Actress. Writer. Raconteur. Klutz. Ninja. Poet. Geek. Troublemaker. And I'm very dangerous over short distances." Now, who doesn't want to be friendly with that sort of person????