Over the past few years I've become one of those Holiday Catholics. You know, the people that only go to church on Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, and so forth. The thing is, I sort of slipped away from Catholicism many years ago and started going to a non denominational church where they sing happy music and every one's always so happy to see you, and they have a happy choir, and a happy band, and the Pastor smiles, and people talk, and there are no paintings of Jesus, or Mary, but if there were any, I'm sure they'd be happy too. I was shocked when I first walked into one of these brightly lit, so called churches to see people talking, smiling, clapping, and singing. What the hell is going on here, I remember thinking. Why aren't these heathens spontaneously combusting into flames for these acts of sacrilege? And where is Jesus? Who stole Jesus?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Catholic churches and ceremonies, it is quite the opposite, particularly if you are from Latin America. Let me explain, I'm sure you've all heard of the infamous Catholic Guilt. Well, Hispanics are infamous for adding a little flare to things, as I'm sure you are aware (Who do you think invented spinning rims?). When you go to a Hispanic mass, you are made to feel that you were the one who just killed Jesus. The churches are large cathedrals decorated with somber remembrances of Christ. Every depiction is of him either on his way to crucifixion, or the brutal sanguinary act itself. Jesus is almost always bleeding, and there's always a good one, or two, of Mary holding his lifeless body after he had just died and been stabbed in the side with a spear for good measure. It is always extremely quiet and hundreds of candles adorn the entire church, but mostly at the feet of statues or in designated areas where people are encouraged to light more candles and pray. Usually the only uplifting paintings are symbolically on the ceiling or stained glass windows high along the towering walls. The artwork in these places is out of this world, but so are the attempts to instill copious amounts of guilt and fear. Also, there is never any air conditioning, so you go in your Sunday best to sweat like a whore in church (how convenient). I often wonder if that effect had more to do with strategy than economy.
With all these practices, images, and traditions so intimately interwoven into my religious upbringing and branded to memory, it's no wonder my affair with another religion didn't last very long. I suppose I either became too guilty, or became increasingly suspicious of all the damn happiness. Surely, something was awry, nobody can be happy all the time. And electric guitars? Gimme a break, a dead giveaway of Satan's work. I never did get to the bottom of why lightning bolts didn't rain from the sky to disintegrate all those happy do gooders, but I'm sure they'll get theirs eventually.
My issues with the Catholic Church are probably similar to most people's, like confession, praying to saints, and priests not being able to marry. I have to admit though, I never really believed in those things anyway (well, confession yes, but not to strangers). I guess I've always known that your relationship with God isn't dependent upon those traditions, so following them was never a necessity for me.
Needless to say, I'm still looking for