Creative Nonfiction

An Informal Musing on an Afternoon of Catholicism

I have a Catholic friend who invited me to his church. Capital-c Church? I don’t know. It has lately come to be that I lack spiritual direction. I am forced to think about my deficit all the time. Tête-à-têtes with church-going acquaintances, compelling gospel songs over PA systems, the fact that religion is the ambient, pungent theme of seemingly every book I’ve ever read, unassuming gatherings that in fact turn out to be very spiritual events. And it leaves me pondering the nature of it all. So I woke early in the morning and we walked to the (C)hurch and I was surprised over and over with ritual after procedure after recitation, and it felt so unnatural, like I was a square block being fistedly shoved into a very circular hole. How does one reach an audience while speaking a different (and not to mention dead) language? All the Catholics, presently in on the joke, could all rub shoulders and understand the deeper meaning that sifted down out of all of this and could cry at candles and Latin tongues, and so nobody minded, outright, that I didn’t kneel at the right times, but how can something so innate and spiritual be so studied-for? How can you teach having a soul? Afterward, Catholic Acquaintance and I walked back for coffee and interrogation. I didn’t report much, which had a lot to do with a keenly shared awareness between the two of us that I was going to speak no wrong, not one single bad word about my experience or the (C)hurch or the Catholics even if I wanted to do so, because who does that and also out of a distaste for unpleasant religious-type confrontation, and all I could really say, in toto, was that “It was different,” or attention-diverting hot-potatoes like, “I’ve never seen holy water before, what’s that deal?”, etc. I didn’t learn much. The whole thing pretty much dwindled down to, in lieu of an actual feasible excuse, my slowly, outrightly walking away, I mean really backpedaling away as we neared my residence, while this Acquaintance was firing off about the sole religious authority of the definitely capital-c here Church and that the Scripture is just a bunch of riff-raff, his eyes ablaze and perspiration forming little pools on the meatier parts of his neck.