"She had her faith and that's all that mattered..."

Last Monday I went to the funeral for the wife of a coworker. Unbeknown to me, it ended up being a full blown 1.5 hour Catholic mass. In the last 30 years, you can count on one hand how many masses I’ve been to. Twice my mother guilt-tripped me into going about 25 years ago (she gave up trying long ago). The other times were funerals like this week. This was my first mass since joining A/N and becoming basically an anti-theist.

I went with two coworkers who are both religious. I did the catholic aerobic thing and stood and sat on cue, but didn’t kneel. Thankfully there were other people sprinkled about the church not kneeling so I wasn’t the only heretic. Although it scared me, I could remember most of the robotic responses, but the only words I uttered were “Peace be with you” when it came time to shake everyone’s hand around me. I definitely passed on the virtual cannibalism.

There was holy water, big statues, lots of lit candles, gold-leafing, one life-size crucifix with a tortured Jesus on it, an organ, pretty hymns, and bagpipes. There were readings, prayers, a gospel and a sermon. There was the consecration of the host which included ringing bells when the priest held up the host (why?), and a lot of bowing and genuflecting. I’d guess there were 200 to 250 people (she was popular in this church) who looked as sane and rational as anyone you would ever meet.

The priest with the soothing voice said things like, “She had her faith, and that’s all that mattered. Nothing else really does... She’s left her physical body behind and joined our lord for eternity in heaven”. At several points, I wanted to jump up on the pew and scream “YOU’RE ALL FRIGGING DELUSIONAL!!!” But with the grieving widower, his four kids and 17 grandchildren all crying, I figured it wasn’t really the time or the place.

If you put the phony, dogmatic ritual crap aside, it was a nice service that remembered what seemed to be a nice woman (who I never met). I kept looking around thinking “How do all of you just totally suspend reality for this fantasy?” It's been 30 years since I was religious and I really can't remember that feeling. Although I’m glad I went to support my coworker, I hope it is years until I have to do it again.

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Tags: Catholic, funeral, mass


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Comment by Christy Gonzalez on October 20, 2009 at 12:25am
I know it's been hard for me to keep a balance between respecting others at religious weddings and funerals and staying true to how I feel about it all, as well as not wanting to let others mistake me for a believer. Good job on keeping such composure during the funeral, it's important for us to be there for our friends and co-workers in their trying times. After all, we'd all expect them to do the same for us in a respectful manner.

At the same time, I especially commend you for refusing to kneel. I succumbed to the kneeling at the wedding, though I wish I hadn't. Great post!
Comment by Dave Rogers on September 25, 2009 at 8:22am
Méabh - Can I also bring graham crackers and Hershey bars so I can make some smores at your wake? I'd like an open bar and lots of laughter at mine, because the only place I'll live on is in those who remember me and they might as well have a good time doing it.

Deb - The priest had his version of the "better place" line but I can't remember exactly what it was. Is was something about "letting go" of her and knowing she was happy where she was. I tuned out here and there since my bullshit meter was overloaded.

Glen - I'm an anti-theist because I believe that all gods and religions are just a giant "ball and chain" civilization has been dragging along far too long. The fact that those "sane looking" people in that church believe in delusional fairy tales in some way legitimizes the fanatic idiot flying a plane into a building who believes his fairy tales. It's time people grew up, let go of the fairy tales, and grow the balls to face their mortality. We all need to live to the fullest the one brief flash of time we get between two eternities.
Comment by Little Name Atheist on September 24, 2009 at 11:57pm
What a trip that must have been for you. I remember liking the bells and smells, as well as the group singing of mass. I'd join an atheist choir in a heartbeat. I haven't been to mass since the late 70s. I suspect I'd be shocked at how much I remember. Good for you for going and supporting your coworker.

When I die, you can come drink (beverages of choice) at my wake, tell jokes, sing songs, etc... I haven't decided on a big pyre, or being hoisted up on a scaffolding so all the local raptors can pick my bones. Bring marshmallows just in case.

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