2004-08-06 - 3:10 p.m.
Catholics make the ugliest churches.
There are many things I’ve disliked about the faith I was raised in, but I never thought the architecture would join the list. Every church I’ve visited has a horrible seventies style décor, with boring brick veneers and twenty foot tall stained glass windows. If you installed a disco ball, Average White Band would just start playing out of sheer necessity.
It makes you want to be Protestant. Now here’s a group that can build a house of god. Towering parapets and lofts that each deserve their own humpbacked wunderkind... The Protestants…now they can rock the worship.
Considering my Irish heritage, this situation is all that much more frustrating. My mother never put up a framed picture of JFK in the house, but her closet reflects a continuing fascination with Jackie O. Invoke the name of Marylyn and she’ll roll her eyes. My progenitor may be the last American left that still believes in Camelot.
I took my little walking tour of the churches in Gramercy after my sister stunned me by asking me to be godfather to her son. Seeing as I’m agnostic, I really didn’t think any title with God in it an appropriate mantle for me to take on. (Then again there aren’t that many titles with ‘God’ in them. Outside of Godfather and Godmother…There should be a Godber; the man who shears the hair of God, sometimes shaving him up real nice, and giving him a lollypop. God loves lollypops.) Still, they asked, and I agreed, immediately running out to get a fat cat and a pinky ring.
Unfortunately, in order to apply for Godfather-hood, one, apparently, needs more than a Marlon Brando accent. The Priest insisted we procure a letter of recommendation for our local parish, proving we were pure and punctual parishioners. This proved to be a problem.
I'm not one of those militant athiests who believe religion is simply another tool of those in power to control the masses. In fact, I tend to respect and envy those with faith, but I, personally, haven’t exactly been to a Sunday service since my ex-girlfriend brought me when her parents were reaffirming their vows. I hadn’t packed appropriately, so, girt in a grey slightly shiny shirt and dark black pants, I was plunked down in the front row of a small church in a small town in Iowa. While I was dressed for a night at the club, everyone else in the pews wore their muted Sunday best, including my ex, who threw on a frock I had never seen before, nor would ever see again, as it had that “My-I-Do-Like-To-Churn-Butter” vibe about it. I threatened to get her a bonnet and complete the Amish makeover. She kicked me in the shins.
It felt strange repeating the words I knew by heart, but had not spoken since I began to doubt. My lips budged a little over the words, but certainly didn't move with conviction, and a few minutes into the service, I could see the Priest giving me the eye. Fighting back a snicker when “America the Beautiful” was played as the recessional didn’t help any. I felt like I polished things over at least a little, when the pastor came by the house later on. I whipped out my old altar-boy credits, and quoted the Latin mass. He toasted me with his whiskey, so I took it he no longer thought I was the devil.
My return to the pious throng was delayed, though. I finally dropped my hopes of finding a pretty place of worship, and ducked into a catholic church that more resembled a rec center, than a house of God. Then again, maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be, lest one forget the lessons of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The priest was out, so I resolved to return when I had a moment, and wandered two blocks down to my local bar. Yes, that’s right, I picked a church by my bar. You have your communion…
I never got my letter of recommendation, but the Priest didn’t seem to mind. A Russian Friar Tuck look alike, he strolled over the altar after mass to begin the Baptism. Looking down to the four excited families below, he bellowed, with thick accent running rampant over his words:
“Bring forth the babies!”
Not one of them cried.
Each of the families was distracted taking picture after picture after picture, running out the batteries on their over powered flash. One of them cried. Still, in one of those moments between capturing the moment, I glanced over to another of the newly dubbed Godfather’s, and ended up sharing as genuine a smile as two strangers can smile. We were made men.
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