Wednesday, April 9, 2014


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 is a story about Ash Wednesday.

What 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.

In 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 "accident-prone."

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.


And this, 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.

So 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?

I 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????


  1. Funny story. Hey, you didn't know. If no one tells a child, then people can't expect you to follow unknown rules.
    At that point, you could've washed your feet as well.
    Usually non-Catholics just watch rather than partake in activities. I'm surprised they put ash on your forehead.
    Robin, I see she's part Ninja - very intrigued now!

  2. Definitively a good idea to have an explanation previous to any kind of religious events. She does have an interesting profile, Robin.

  3. Great story and love the writing style. Another blog for me to check out....thanks, Robin :)

  4. Holy cow, what a story! Word to the wise, when you're bringing a friend who's not part of your faith for a visit, fill them in. :)

  5. Is that song old or new? Don't laugh, you know I never know songs. But it reminds me of the beat of songs we used to dance all night to .... in the chalet..... after a hard days skiing. Those were the days.
    Nice H.

    1. INXS... Oh, how I love INXS. Back when I was doing Inspirational Song Saturday posts I included them on one. Here is the link...

      The shorter answer is that they were popular in the 80s. The album this song was on, Kick, was freaking amazing. Seven songs charted on that album. They deliberately wrote that album so that EVERY song was a hit (and they all were). One of the best albums front to start ever recorded. It was so good that the record company didn't want to make it. Didn't think they could sell it. Didn't believe anyone would like it. ha! Just shows you what those folks know...

  6. Like David wrote: give your friend the background of whatever celebration or ritual you are bringing them to! Fun story. :-)

  7. That's so funny and it's something to which I can relate. My second wife's family was Roman Catholic and I never got the hang of their rituals. Sometimes rituals and beliefs can be so alien that they defy the sense of logic if one is unaccustomed to them. I guess the adherents of the faith misunderstand the innocent actions of those ignorant to their faith and get offended.

    Hey, it wasn't your fault. And that dish of water obviously wasn't intended to drink from so why not use it to wash off...

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  8. I was at a Catholic wedding of a friend, and didn't know any of the rituals either, having been brought up in a different type of church. Luckily, hubs was raised Anglican, which is similar so he prompted me when to do certain things. One should never assume others know these things. To my way of thinking, they should have been more tolerant. Isn't that what it's all about??

    I don't know, she might be dangerous to stand next to. . .since she did mention short distances. . .will check out her blog, though.

  9. The Catholics are wacky! Hilarious stuff! Very funny. Shawn from Laughing at Life 2 your newest follower!

  10. buwahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahaa
    Okay...that's funny stuff, especially the James Bond throw into the mini-van and she's still like, 'What?' hahahahahha

  11. I was not really in the best of moods today (insurance company problems) until I read your post. Thanks for bringing out the laugh in me! (And I do think the standing/sitting routine might be a ploy to keep us awake.)

  12. Your post was so good I felt greedy not sharing it, so I just forwarded it to Facebook. Thanks again for the laugh.

  13. Haha! I think the logic to use holy water to clean off the ashes was outstanding!

  14. Hahahahahahaha yeah... I can only imagine. >_<

    Someone really should have explained.

  15. Wo-ow!! I can imagine that she's a legend at that church now. The stories they probably tell at the church-potluck suppers, lol!

  16. Friends... I am really struggling with a migraine, so I am not commenting to each and every one of you, BUT I am so glad you enjoyed this post as much as I did. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that Phoenix returns to regular blogging.

  17. I'm laughing, and I WAS raised Catholic.

  18. Oh, rats. I read your comment after I commented. Feel better Robin!

  19. >>... 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?)

    That alone made me laugh out loud.
    And then things got even funnier!

    Long story, which I'm not going to 'splain, but... I am not and never have been Catholic. But in answer to a month-long prayer, Jesus once sent me to a Catholic mass in Reno, Nevada. It was performed by a Mexican priest to an entirely Mexican congregation. I was the ONLY White person in the church, and the only Spanish I understand and can speak is, "Mas Cerveza, pronto, Tonto!" (I think that's at least partially Spanish.

    So, I sat through that entire Catholic mass, not understanding a word, but getting up and sitting down again when everyone else did. However... when it was all over with and I was walking down the steps of the church, utterly confused about why I had been sent there, Jesus had some young Mexican boy hand me the answer to my month-long prayer.

    Jesus is ultra-creative, and I'm sure he was laughing while I sat (and stood, and sat, and stood, and sat, and stood) throughout that entire mass waiting for some sort of explanation for why He had sent me there. Yeah, laugh it up, Savior Man!

    Great entry, Robin!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  20. omg, that was hilarious and I definitely want to be friends with Phoenix!

  21. I imagine that more than a few young Catholics did that at one point or the other. I was raised catholic, and one thing I learned is that explaining something to someone MIGHT lead to them questioning it. For example:

    Me: Mom, is there life on other planets?
    Mom: NO.
    Me: How do you know?
    Mom: It's in the Bible.
    Me: Where?
    Mom: IT'S IN THERE!

    I can honestly say that, while a certain logic can lead you to that conclusion, the Bible never itself breaches the subject of intelligent life on other worlds.

  22. lol, I see what you mean about the writing.
    Brilliant post.

  23. Yea, it's not easy when you don't know what's expected of you and do it all wrong. Glad she's able to look back on it with a smile. Moments like that need to be laughed at.

    M. J.
    A - Z Co-Host

  24. Spending most of my childhood in small and relatively Protestant towns, I had no idea what Ash Wednesday was either. Then I moved to NYC after graduating college and one day I was shocked to see bunches of well-dressed, "normal" New Yorkers all rushing to work in the morning with a black spot on their forehead. I stared as if they had antennae growing out of their heads. That was my introduction to Catholicism.

  25. I enjoyed the post. Books and TV (like The Exorcist) was my intro to Catholicism, lol. Loved the INXS video.


  26. Def loved the post and the Inxs video! I wasn't raised Catholic, but my mothers grandma was Catholic. I was always intrigued by the St Christopher beads that she gave to my mom. Hopping over to visit Phoenix blog!


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