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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Oh Come All Ye Faithful...And A Few Of You Other Guys Too

Growing up Roman Catholic, I used to attend church nearly every Sunday. I made my penance, my communion and my confirmation. I sat through sermon upon sermon. My parents, however, were split right down the middle. Both mom and dad were also raised Roman Catholic, but the tradition of faithfully attending mass only stuck with mom. Dad was a special occasions attendee. Back then I wanted to be like dad, for reasons that I'm sure are obvious. This upset mom. As I grew older and went off to college, I ultimately did end up like dad. And mom? Well, she too stopped going. I guess all those Sunday's were really just spent trying to instill some faith in me. Funny how it backfired like that.

When she gets frustrated now that I don't go, I tell her that when you point the finger, there are always three more pointing right back at you. Well, in theory I tell her that. Actually I just send her more of a "look and sigh combo" that I've perfected over the years. I see that for her, shopping most Sunday mornings has replaced the morning mass ritual. There's the pot calling the kettle black. No, two wrongs don't make a right. You can feel free to fill in your favorite random idiom here.

For a few years I didn't even attend mass on Christmas. There were too many places to go, too many people to see. But this year, everything fell into place and lo and behold my family, with grandma in tow, all decided to venture out to the local church. With the wedding I did a reading in being just last week that makes a whopping two week in a row record for my church attendance. I just might be on to something. Nah, probably not.

Some things stay the same with your average, Roman Catholic parishoner. I live in a town that is predominantly Jewish, but on holidays such as Christmas, the RC's come out of the woodwork like you wouldn't believe. This particular mass was no exception. It was standing room only as the priest and deacons prepared to preach to a packed house. Not only did we not have a seat, we were standing in the dreaded back room. The one that is always too cold or too hot. The one where they have bingo nights. The one that is always only half full of chairs on nights such as these when EVERY YEAR they obviously need more. I'm no financial advisor, but taking some of the donations and investing in another 50-100 folding chairs might be a good idea. Or if we could only use call ahead. I mean it works so well for The Outback.

So as we stood in the too warm, crowded room of well intentioned, but already halfway out the door parishoners, I found myself resorting to the old standby's I used from many a Christmases past. When I was a kid, there were other kids that got to bring things to do like dolls to play with or books to read. I was not one of those children. At that time, I merely looked at those kids with envy. So instead, I zoned in on other people. If all goes well and you play cards right, you can sit (or stand as the case may be) near a cute baby or child. If you are lucky enough to have this location, you're golden. Cute children, whether they're precocious or obnoxious, help pass the time like nobody's business. And if you are really lucky, you have a few different kids to choose from. This particular mass I found a few children to focus my attention on, although it was far from being a banner year. There was the cute little blonde hair child who loved to hit her mom. Then there was the little boy in front of me who had a passing the time activity of his own as he played the original, "watch me try to balance on one foot for as long as I can" game of boredom. The other thing I notice about the little ones is that they too have their ways of getting through mass. Us Roman Catholics start early. Also, do you think it's really a coincidence some kids don't start ranting and raving at the top of their lungs until it is completely silent? I didn't think so.

I noticed the first reader at this particular mass sounded a lot like an extra from The Sopranos. I didn't know who the priest was either, but he too sounded like an actor I couldn't place. I'd like to tell you what these men looked like, but I couldn't see him from the nosebleed seats, or "stands" as it were. We actually used to have a priest who sounded exactly like Tom Hanks if you closed your eyes. All of these men make feeble attempts at humor before diving into the serious business, which in short, no matter how you slice it, is always "Jesus is the reason for the season".

As the priest thanked us for coming and subtley reminded us to be good Roman Catholics not just tonight but, all year round, people started filing out of the church. Most of them got what they came for. They put in their time and paid their dues, some of the literally. They scampered off to the cars, most of them to surface again during Lent or Easter. And it was in the moment that we walked out into the cold, night air and tried to cross the parking lot to get to our car as cars kept on whizzing by that I noticed the irony of it all. Jesus might be what got us there, but apparently one little sermon is not going to change the fact, unfortunately, most of these people still think they're more important than you.

I also realize as I type this that most of the people who will actually read this on Christmas will probably be Jewish bloggers and some of this might be boring to them, but that's ok.

Regardless of your denomination, I hope you have (or had) a happy holiday. Just try to be good to each other, pretty please with a Communion wafer on top.



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