There are two subjects that I absolutely will not discuss openly with anyone: politics, and religion. I’ll chat carefully with someone one-on-one if I feel like either we’ll still be friends even if we completely disagree with each other, or, I couldn’t give a shit less about offending whomever I’m talking to. But for the most part, I really don’t like talking about politics or religion. In my mind, politics and religion are too deeply personal for people to cram their opinions down the throats of others. Too many people are hell-bent on being correct, to the point where they will actually deny undeniable facts universal truths if said facts and truths just don’t suit their desires.
That being said…today is Easter. And I was raised Catholic.
On my mom’s side of the family, everyone went to Catholic mass every Sunday and went through all the initiation stuff like baptism, first communion, confirmation, etc. But they kept their religious opinions mostly to themselves, only chatting lightly if someone else brought the subject up.
Dad’s side of the family is pretty extreme when it comes to Catholicism. My Dad has an uncle named Paul who was not only an ordained priest, but he also performed exorcisms. Yeah. Exorcisms are a real thing in the Catholic church. They’ve become something that’s only done in secret…the church most definitely does not talk about them openly. But they do perform them. :/
So, Uncle/Father Paul was a priest. He became a priest because he was gay, and he knew that if he dared to tell his father that he was gay, his father would disown him, and quite honestly…his dad would’ve probably beat him to death, or at least tried his hardest to do so. Great Grandpa John was a harsh, stern man who served time in World War 1 and lived his life in fear. His response to fear was to fight – attack whatever it was that he disagreed with, with brute force.
Anyway, so, Uncle Father Paul was gay. He knew from the time he was a young child that he didn’t fit the mold of what his family considered to be a “normal” boy. He hated sports. He learned how to curl and braid his sisters hair. He would do laundry just to steal his sisters pink girly panties so that he could wear them. He’d rather cook dinner than go throw the football around with his brothers while the girls cooked. You get the idea.
Great Grandpa John sensed that Paul was ‘different’, and he tried to force Paul to do things that he felt a “normal” boy should do: he forced Paul to play football, until Paul broke his neck during practice. Then it was boxing, until Paul was pummeled so hard that he suffered a skull fracture. Then he forced Paul to learn how to wrench on muscle cars and bought him a used Mustang for his sixteenth birthday. Paul liked the car because it gave him the ability to escape the house.
This went on until Paul was forty years old, and he hadn’t married anyone. He hadn’t ever brought a girl around the house – he was always alone, or “out with the guys” (uh huh). On Paul’s 40th birthday, Great Grandpa John took Paul aside and gave him an ultimatum: either Paul was to get married to a woman within the next year, or he was to join the priesthood.
At this point, Paul was convinced that because he was homosexual, that made him a sick, depraved pervert and just thinking about men in a sexual manner would damn his soul to Hell. So he joined the priesthood. And he threw himself head-long into being a priest.
As soon as Uncle Father Paul went to seminary school, he became the family Saint. Great Grandpa John bragged about him to everyone who would listen. And Paul lived a long life where he seemed happy: he was social, he enjoyed the church and he’d attend family gatherings proudly instead of feeling ashamed.
Every time I sit in church, I think about Uncle Father Paul. And I wonder – what would Jesus do? No, seriously – I really wonder what he’d think of the way morals have changed so much over time. I think that every lesson that Jesus taught was about love, kindness, and tolerance. Even if you didn’t agree with someone, turn the other cheek and tolerate them.
I like to think that Jesus would be so much kinder, so much more understanding than far too many people are today. I wonder how Jesus was able to calm peoples fears? That’s where all this hatred stems from – it stems from fear.
I guess, being the son of God, Jesus was able to do things that no one else ever could. Which is why I actually do wish he’d come back and hang out with us again. I think this world could really use a refresher on tolerance, grace, kindness and love.
I was thinking exactly that as I sat in the pew in a church that was overflowing with people and felt like an oven. I thought about Uncle Father Paul.
I thought about Mason, and why I’m so troubled by the way I feel about him. Why I’m so afraid to leave my heart vulnerable again.
I thought about Jesus, and how nice it would be to have a glass of wine with him.
I thought about how good I have it in life. Because I’m actually _happy_. Truly, completely and totally happy. I wake up and count my blessings quietly in my head every morning. I fall asleep counting my blessings again, and silently thanking God and whomever else might be listening for all that I have.
I walked out of church feeling pretty darn good. I’m definitely not up-to-par per the Catholic church’s moral standards. But I still like going to church. Every time I leave, I feel refreshed and at peace – like I found my center again. And maybe I don’t go every single week, but when I do – somehow, I never regret it.
Especially not on Easter Sunday.