first holy communion: a report from the front


My cousin celebrated his First Holy Communion on Saturday, the second-most notable occurrence of the day for me. Since I am a heretic, I viewed the ceremonial first feast of Christ's transubstantiated flesh with a more detached, dispassionate eye. Other people see a young man taking the first step toward embracing the savior and living eternally in His love. Me, I try to look for the weird and the comedic as I journey down the road to Hell.

The first thing I noticed was that Catholics cannot sing. Not that you could really tell, since every single hymn is a lockstep, droning, tuneless dirge. To make matters worse, this church, along with a few others I have attended, has decided that many of its prayers should be sung, but without any attempt to fit a reasonable melody. What results is that a bunch of tone-deaf white people warble, "Ou-ur fa-a-ther/ Who art in hea-a-ven," and the Lord's Prayer takes three-and-a-half minutes to get through, and the Baby Jesus cries.

Maybe my perspective has changed because of the church across the street from my apartment. It was the Christian Layman Church for a few years, and was very sparsely attended. I used to imagine what church services would be like there:

PRIEST: And now, an epistle from Paul to the Corinthians. Be not...
CHURCHGOER: Uh, father? Could you, um, you know...?
PRIEST: Put it in layman's terms?
PRIEST: OK. So Paul is writing a letter to these dudes in Greece, and...

About two years ago, the Laymen were replaced by a large Baptist Church. Now, Sunday mornings on Ward Street feature gospel music, well-dressed African-American families, a multitude of fancy hats. Walking by one afternoon, I heard the minister thundering, "You know the difference between Ice Cube and Vanilla Ice. But do you know the difference between damnation and salvation?!?"

Maybe it's unrealistic of me to hold up my Irish Catholic family to the musical standards of a gospel choir. Still, even if rhythmn is too much to ask for, couldn't there be melody? Couldn't there be meter? Does off-key singing keep the devil away? (Answers: No. No. Maybe.)

It's also a bit unsettling to see a bunch of suit-clad eight year-olds affirming their commitment to following Jesus and rejecting Satan. The little girls wear white dresses and veils, I guess because they're marrying Jesus. I know that when I was eight, I basically treated religion like it was school. Adults would think I was extremely devout and holy, mainly just because I could read and remember large portions of the Bible. I was just worried there might be a test or a Bible trivia competition coming up, which I would of course be expected to ace. There wasn't much spirituality to the whole thing, unless you count the enormous guilt - I once stayed awake at night for a month after I ate half of a butterscotch candy out of the Brach's bin at Safeway, positive I was bound for Hell. Which I guess I am, for different reasons, if Jesus turns out to be right.

My main point is that young children don't really have the capacity to make decisions about their spiritual lives. I got baptized when I was seven (older than normal). When I went up to get my head doused in holy water, the priest had me remove my prized sport jacket, just so it wouldn't get wet. Because of all the Satan talk that followed, I was left with the impression that the suit jacket was removed because it was dark-colored. For years, I would watch anxiously when men in suits would do anything near the altar, for fear that the devil would take advantage of their dark-jacketed vulnerability.

My cousin wore a gray suit for the ceremony, and he can't sing, so I think Satan's out of luck this time!


they baptized me before i was a year old. the hooligans. they'll pay in hell.
p.s. that story about the baptist church is FANTAstic.

Hi Sean,

I am one of those little girls dressed in white with white veils that you were speaking of. I can remember that day just like it was yesterday and it was a wonderful day! I was 7 yrs. old and believe me when I tell you that I knew exactly what I was doing at that young age. I was receiving Jesus Christ, body, blood soul and divinity.

Jesus said that the most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. I am praying for you and Michelle. I know that God's LOVE is way more than what we know as love. He knew you before you were formed in your mother so I think that He loves you very much.

As far as us Catholics and singing, yes, I agree that most of us are not professional singers. I have to say that God loves us just the same, so I think that maybe our awful voices are transported to The Lord and sound beautiful for Him! As a mother, I know that whatever my kids did for me when they were young was very precious to me. So, I'm positive that's how God sees us!

what was the search which brought her here, i wonder? blasphemous imaginary nabokov land?

There's something about saying "I'm praying for you" that sounds like the school counselor just getting warmed up to a major lecture on your inappropriate behavior. It doesn't mean "I like you and want to do something nice for you", it means "Oh, boy, you really fucked up".

I'm going Buddhist. At least they talk about cunts.

why do religious people always feel the need to try to convert others? can't they just be secure enough in their own beliefs? they tout love for everyone...yet are so quick to judge and condemn.
why can't we heretics just poke fun in peace? sure we judge too and act superior but at least we don't try to force others to think we're the only ones who know what's going on.

michele, michelle.

yes, really, which michel(l)e is she praying for? i think it makes a difference. in terms of, you know, your soul being saved and all.

at least i have buddha to save my cunt.

oh man. that is totally going to come back and bite me in the ass.

baby, i'll save your cunt AND bite your ass!

its nice and i feel good

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Keane published on May 8, 2003 2:14 PM.

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