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Notes on attending Catholic church with my parents on the last Sunday morning before Christmas in Mattoon, Illinois.

  • I went to church with my parents Sunday morning. Both of my parents converted to Catholicism a few years ago, which means they're devoted to a religion that their son doesn't fully understand. I've got all kinds of questions. Who can take communion and who can't? What's an annulment? Can priests really not have sex? Like, ever? Why do the altar boys always look like such punks? And why is everyone kneeling again? (Do you realize how strange it is to see your father kneel? Did Superman ever kneel before Zod? I submit to you that he did not.
  • The best part about going to church in the Midwest, for me, is catching up with people you haven't seen in a year. I can always count on seeing a large proportion of my graduating class at church, most of whom have children, children that cry and scream throughout the entire service. (I do not know how priests can keep a straight face during this. I mean, talking in front of 100 people is scary enough; when a baby is bawling and burping and farting throughout, it would seem difficult to talk about His saving nature. I don't know about you, but I think I'd crack.)

    Then I look at the parents of these children. One of them graduated with me in 1993. I always had a tiny crush on her, but she evidently stopped pining away for Will Leitch and married and had two children. She now weighs, oh, about 735 pounds. Remember that old video game "Dig-Dug," where the little miner guy would shoot a pump at bad guys and inflate them, puffing them out more and more, until they exploded? She looked like one of those right before the explosion. Nice lady, clearly happy in her life … and just enormous. A friend of mine blames this on high fructose corn syrup. Seems as good a theory as anything.

  • My mother is constantly pushing me to date Catholic women, which is strange, considering, well, um, I'm not Catholic. A devoted Catholic's parents would point to me as exactly the type of guy they shouldn't date.

  • You have to admire the efficiency of a Catholic church service. In the Baptist church I grew up in, the minister's sermon would blather on for nearly an hour, with half the congregation sleeping through it, waking only to cheer for their football team, who just scored through their hidden earphones. At the Catholic church, however, the priest speaks for about five minutes, and the rest of the service is full of sacraments and ritual and stand-up-sit-down-kneel formalities. It's a lean, mean 45 minutes, you're up, you're down, it's over, time to go home. It's kind of like a Jane Fonda workout, without the spandex.

  • The Catholic Church is becoming too lax, if you ask me. Half the people in my row were wearing jeans. Come on, it's church, people. At least put on a nice sweater with a sheep on it or something.

  • Since I'm not Catholic, I can't take Communion. Everyone else stands up and walks to the altar, and my job is to move out of everyone's way as they tear through the pew. It's like being the one guy who never goes up for beer at the baseball game.

    I feel like an outcast, an albino. Even though they're obviously not, I always imagine everyone giving me dirty looks, as if I am an outsider invading their church. Maybe I'm spying for the Methodists, doing some advance scouting for the upcoming Church Decathlon Olympics, like at the end of Revenge of the Nerds.

  • You have to feel kind of bad for the Catholic church around Christmas. The day is among the most holy in the religion, a celebration of the birth of Christ, His salvation, all that stuff you slept through in Sunday school as a kid. And every time church leaders try to get you to focus on that, Santa keeps getting in the way.

    Seriously. Sunday's service was full of references to Christmas, and prayers to remember the holy day and the birth of the Savior. And included was a prayer asking the congregation to not get caught up in "commercialism" and "rampant consumerism."

    Yeah, right. That's a battle the church is going to lose every time. They're like the serious singer-songwriter who wrote a little ditty that now is on a television commercial so often they can't even listen to it anymore. Rampant consumerism? Christmas is officially a pagan, capitalist holiday, and it's a pity that the Christian underpinnings of the holiday have been buried, but nevertheless there it is. I think half the congregation was heading straight to Wal-Mart after church. We're a nation of gluttons. Sorry, God.

  • Oh, and why does church have to be so early? Sheesh. I'm going back to bed.


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