I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church: mass on Sundays, doilies on the head or tissues with bobby pins when the doilies weren’t available. It was the 1960’s Catholic version of the 2011 Muslim chador. Women were supposed to cover their heads. I don’t know why religious men think hair is so forbidden. Most of the time mine is spent in an unkempt ponytail.
I cannot say I follow the Catholic Church anymore. The restrictions and dogma are too great. Layers upon layers of expensive education and its resultant reasoning have made me question all that. I am not sure I am an atheist; I am in the religion of the “I don’t know”. Me and Heisenberg together with all the uncertainty. What I do believe in is the power of humanity. After all is said and done, that’s what we all share in common.
I called a priest last night to administer Last Rites to my father. I don’t think my father will last the weekend. Although my birth religion has lapsed, my father’s hasn’t. Although he is no longer a churchgoer, in recent months I have found several prayer books in his house. They are old ones. One was dated 1938 and must have been given to him at his Holy Communion. Others I know were my grandmother’s since they have Polish side notes. Friday nights you could not call my father recently. Some network (EWTN?) broadcasts “The Bishop Fulton Sheen Hour”. I happen to catch it once on a Friday night spent with my Dad. Sheen would scare the bejesus out of anyone. Part old time preacher, part priest and part General Patton. Yikes I thought. I was surprised the good Bishop with his commanding voice, over the top hand gestures and fingerpointng wouldn’t collapse into speaking in tongues and writhing on the floor with snakes. Inspiring? No. Friday Night Fright Night? Maybe.
My sister dismisses the whole things as “mumbo-jumbo”. My cynical side agrees with her but my more rational side tries to explore deeper. We are all human. The various religions I think just tried to control all that into some system of understanding, eventual fear and ultimate control. The Catholic Church like other religious institutions through centuries of power, history and money, just tried to formalize human life through the sacraments. We all need one another at time of great joy and times of sorrow and pain. At a baby’s birth, everyone should come to celebrate what a marvelous thing that has happened. What could be a greater gift to humanity that a newborn baby? At the coming of age in adolescence, yes people should come together and witness a young girl or boy entering into adulthood and reconnect with family and friends for guidance, good food and a good laugh or two. Marriage, if it’s a good one, should be celebrated as two people start a new life and family together. And yes, death should be a time when people should comfort the dying and try to ease the pain of loss in the family and friends. These should be the last rights not rites. No holy water necessary.
Father M. will see my father today. I will see my father tomorrow. I have a right to be with him probably for the last time.