Having faith and eating meat, too.
By Elizabeth Thompson
We would be taught and then the rest would be left up to faith or fate -- whichever came first. They would do their part and we would have to decide the rest for ourselves.
I, however, am certain of very little and believe that my confusion started as soon as the priest put his thumb print on my forehead, like some sort of ashen precursor to the world of guilt that was implanted deep into my psyche in second grade by Sister…oh…what was her name?
Big butt, very little sense of humor -- ah, I’ll just call her Sister U. Willburninhell -- she instructed me in the fine art of guilt that I would successfully nurture through to my Confirmation, and beyond.
Let me just say that I believe organized religion can be a very beautiful thing -- especially, when passed on with each generation in beautiful expressions of faith and liturgy -- but the pious tutelage I received did little to improve my moral fiber apart from effectively having scared the piss of out me, literally!
Like Sister U. Willburninhell, religiously expressed her belief that our entire second grade class would grow up and prove to be the sinners she knew we were, if it weren’t for her strict discipline. Like, pulling an 8-year-old child in front of an upper-grade class and spanking her student for speaking out of turn or, heaven forbid, during one of the numerous daily masses.
I was such a nervous wreck around Sister U. Willburninhell and whenever she came a nose hair away from my face and asked me a question regarding that day’s lesson, I would start shaking and actually relieved myself once -- she made me sit through the rest of the day, wet and totally mortified!
At that point my parents had enough, and I still remember sitting outside of Mother Superior’s office the next day and listening to my father curse in both English and Hungarian!
Except every Good Friday, of course!
We would color eggs with my mother and grandmother and ate tuna fish, egg salad or palancsinta (the Hungarian version of a crepe). Again, I remember absolutely loving my family’s ritualistic approach toward Easter, resenting the fact that I could not partake in the homemade smoked sausages and fresh ham that sat untouched in our refrigerator until Easter morning.
“Please, just one little piece!”No.
“But, it smells so good!”Man - it was torture, I tell you - but, what was one bite going to do to my soul?
“Because, it’s Good Friday and one day is not going to kill you; will it?!?”You know what - I didn’t know and I didn’t want to find out, either - Sister U. Willburninhell made sure of that.
Until, I got married and the year our oldest daughter was born.
My husband and I joined the Reformed church and I remember being in total awe of Pastor Nancy -- she was married, had a child and I could listen to this woman and her modern day analogies of the bible, and relate. Not just because she was a female minister (you go, girl!) who happened to preach the gospel in a very comprehensive and succinct way, but she was a breath of fresh air.
But, what really blew me away was her explanation whether or not there was a rule of what I should or should not be feeding my family on Good Friday.
“Naw, we Reformed don’t like to focus on JC’s painful exit so much as his cool entrance into heaven.”So, I ate meat and was finally able to put Sister U. Willburninhell where she belonged – behind me and my newly-converted....um...behind.
Unfortunately, Pastor Nancy left the congregation -- apparently, there is an intentional limit to their tenure -- and (once again) I have strayed, as church just hasn’t been the same since.
Every year on Good Friday, my husband and I take our four kids -- along with a pot heavy with hyacinths -- to my parents’ house and color eggs. We will most likely, if the weather holds out, go to a nearby park and cheer my two oldest daughters’ attempts at maneuvering in their roller blades. My parents will laugh at my 8-year-old son’s jokes and I will gasp at my 5-year-old daughter’s total misconception of gravity. Later, my mother will cut into her famed kalacs and cry as we, once again, realize just how much we all miss my grandmother.
Just like the heady smell of purple hyacinths, Easter was one of her most favorite spring traditions and something she kept in our house, faithfully.
Yes, there will be pizza.
Not due to any residual Catholic guilt, but -- though, I must confess that I no longer believe it’s a sin, no matter how hard the good sister tried -- burning in hell for eating meat on Good Friday is like...well, what my father always says.
“If all I have to do...my whole life...to get into heaven...is go to church...then, I am in BIG trouble!”Perhaps, he’s right and God doesn’t mind if we, you know, take it with a grain of salt and consume our faith, accordingly.
Especially since there’s a pizza joint just around the corner!
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