If anyone from my father’s side of the family asks, I’m Catholic.
Pure-bred, 100% red-blooded Roman Catholic, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 weeks a year. I just can’t get enough of those Hail Mary’s.
If you know me, you know I couldn’t be anything farther from this. I grew up Church of Christ, a denomination most people can’t wrap their heads around. When I disclose this information, they usually respond with, “Yeah, I know but like, what religion are you? Like, are you like, Baptist? Or Methodist?”
No, I’m Church of Christ. I worship Christ … of the church.
If you’re familiar with this sector, then you know it is probably the most by-the-book denomination you can find; basically, the polar opposite of Catholicism. Which is why it is even more important to maintain my affiliation with Mary, Joseph and the rest of the main characters of the Catholic show.
You see, my father’s bloodline in its entirety is under the impression that I am, and always have been, a devout Catholic. If they knew otherwise, they would disown me (which actually wouldn’t be so bad, now that I’m considering it …).
My father grew up Catholic, so he was, of course, expected to grow up and raise a family in the same manner. My mother grew up in the Assembly of God, which, from what I can understand, is just a bunch of gyrating, flailing arms and deep, guttural screaming. (I know, I’m considering switching membership now, too).
After their holy matrimony, my parents decided together to join the West Houston Church of Christ … only we conveniently forgot to mention it to the rest of the family. As a result, I was taught at the tender age of four the vital and wise art of “The White Lie.” Thus, I began to undergo the concentrated prepping and priming from my parents that was necessary to make me appear as though I was a regular front-row-dweller at every CCE class offered at St. Elizabeth’s.
Oh, we played the game disturbingly well. I forgot to mention that, during my grandparent’s first trip down to Texas, my parents scheduled a Catholic christening for me at our local Catholic church. My grandfather had a tear in his eye as he helped hold my head for the priest as he sprinkled my fraudulent forehead with holy water. Proudly gazing at our little devout Catholic family and newly-christened granddaughter, my grandfather choked up and said this was one of the best days of his entire existence … Yeah, I’m pretty sure we have a one-way ticket straight to Hell.
I was schooled in all things Catholic, including the perplexing act of praying to Mary; why did I have to go through her to get to my main man? I couldn’t rely on her to pass my message down and I’d really much rather just go straight to the source. I decided this was one thing I would discuss with my father’s family when the day came where I was finally discovered and ousted.
It was a rigorous process, this deceptive schooling, but I pushed through it. I usually passed their little tests with flying colors every Thanksgiving or Christmas when we flew up to Ohio to see them. However, we soon realized where my training had fallen through the cracks: the many memorized chants the Catholics regurgitate on every occasion. But I was quick on my falsified feet, and I employed the no-fail “Watermelon” mouthing technique that had gotten me through oh so many elementary school performances of embarrassing Jungle Book songs.
Basically, I was frighteningly good at this.
The tricky part came when I reached the age where my first communion was expected to ensue. All of my little cousins were slowly having theirs, one by one, and every chance they got my aunts and uncles would probe me about when I would have mine. Every time, I would revert back to my old standby, explaining that I was fervently searching for the perfect dress because “I wanted to be beautiful for Jesus.”
Over the years, we managed to pull off the whole charade with minimal gaffes. I, personally, rarely made any blunders or slip-ups, with exception to our latest visit to Ohio back in May.
There was a huge leaf taped to the kitchen wall of my aunt’s house. I always knew she had eccentric taste in décor, but this was crossing the line. I casually yelled out between laughs, “Why on earth do you have an enormous piece of foliage mounted on your wall??”
My six-year-old cousin Cara stared at me like I had just asked them all why everyone thought Tom Cruise was on the fast track to Crazy Town. “Duh…” Cara said, “for Palm Sunday.”
My dad gave me the side-eye and flashed me a look that said, “Can it, you! Our whole 21 years of deceitful labor is about to be flushed down the toilet if you don’t shut up.”
I just laughed it off and said, “Oh, yes, silly me! Palm Sunday! Love it. I just love it. I’m a HUGE fan. I’m already counting down the days til the next one!”
Yeah. I know how to play it cool.
So, I would really appreciate it if you could just continue playing along with this decades-old farce, for the sake of my family and our immense effort to appease the Catholics of our family tree. In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit …