Sunday, August 03, 2008

that old time religion

I went into Dunkin' Donuts yesterday, to pick up a coffee to bring to my daughter at work. As soon as I got on line, I ran into Bob, an old friend of my husband's, also from the infamous Catholic high school we all went to. (Not the one who doesn't speak to me. But he went there too.) This guy is a church-going man, a family man, like my husband used to be. (My husband still is a family man, it seems; it's just that he's grafted himself onto a new family. Like a barnacle.) My husband and Bob used to chat after church, about all things Catholic. I told Bob that our divorce would be final soon. He just shook his head.

Next I ran into a nice little old lady from church, who was having coffee with a nun, also from our church. The old lady (Marge) introduced me to the nun (Sister Aileen). Marge told the sister to whom I had been married. Sister Aileen knew this already--everyone in my church knows who I am. (Rather, they don't know who I am, but they know whom I was married to.) She shook her head and said, "Brian sang at my fiftieth jubilee celebration."

This is the kind of stuff my husband did, routinely for more than ten years. It's why I was so sucker-punched by his affair. I was a true believer in his belief. I fell for the Catholicism. So, apparently, did everyone else at church. People are still saying, "What? The guy who used to sing in church?" And shaking their heads.

Did I mention that my husband went to Mass every single day for almost ten years? That he sang like an angel of God (this was the consensus of the congregation; something I heard many times: He sings like an angel of God) on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, right up front at a lectern, in a suit and tie (sometimes in a shiny blue choir robe), and that his specialty was singing the Exultet at Easter Vigil? (He was also known for Panis Angelicus and the Ave Maria. He was the local Latin hymn hero, beloved of old ladies and nuns. And his kids. And me.) That he was on the Liturgy Committee, and the music committee, and various other church committees? That he did the readings at Mass? That he distributed Communion, and that he would frequently be pressed into service as an altar boy during those ten years of early morning weekday Masses? That he professed a special devotion to Padre Pio, and that he prayed the Meditations of St. Ignatius every day? Said multiple rosaries and chaplets each day? Incessantly sprinkled our house with holy water? Wore a variety of blessed medals and scapulars around his neck? Had a collection of 57 separate religious items--prayer cards, crucifixes, blessed candles, crosses, palm from church made into still more crosses, rosaries, statues, images of saints, including one I can never forget: the image of the face of Christ in the Shroud of Turin, staring down at me--in our bedroom alone. That he was in the Knights of Columbus, whose mission, my kids and I were often informed, was to protect the priests at all costs, and that the priests needed protection because they were again being attacked by the evil, worldly elements in our culture? (!) That he had a fan base of devout little old ladies, and nuns, and priests? That we socialized with the monsignor of our church? That on the first Friday of every month, he was a regular at the Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, with his coterie of nuns and little old ladies? That his favorite channel was Eternal Word Television Network, on which his favorite shows were Mother Angelica and Bishop Fulton? That he went to the Stations of the Cross, the Vigil of the Cross, and Tenebrae? That he would be one of those elected to have his feet washed by the priest on Good Friday? (I think it's Good Friday. I don't even know some of this stuff.) That he frequently exhorted my children and me to pray the rosary with him, and wanted us to formally, with the help of a priest, dedicate our home to the Blessed Mother?

These are just some of the things I remember, off the top of my head. (I'm Catholic too--as I always say, they got me early on and I can't seem to shake it, no matter how hard I try, and I have tried--but I used to say that Brian was "deep Catholic". He knew things and did things that the average Catholic doesn't. Priests do, though. That alone should have sounded an alarum.) He wasn't shy about laying his religiosity on everyone in sight, either. He forced my middle daughter, who deeply, roundly, loathed all of this, to go to Mass every Sunday until she was 17, at which point I told him to leave her alone.

He used to wake up every day to Dr. James Dobson, with his daily radio soundbite, Focus on the Family. My kids and I would hear all day long about what Dr. Dobson had to say that morning. My husband would go on and on, a la Dr. Dobson, about how corrupt, debased, debauched, and God-less our culture is, about how people worship Mammon, and put their transient desires for pleasure and money and the things of this world above what God wants us to do, which, of course, is to have as many children as possible and train them up in the ways of God, as dictated by the Catholic Church. It was like living with a Catholic Dr. Dobson. He would talk about how our family and our children were the most important things in the world to him. He would always talk about how much kids need their parents (especially their mothers--I should have paid more attention to that part!), and needed them even more as they grew into those dangerous teenage years. He would thank God--frequently, vociferously--that I wasn't one of those selfish modern feminist non family-oriented women, running out to find fulfillment in a career. (During the divorce negotiations, this all changed to: Let her get a job.)

You should have heard his diatribes on abortion.

What a blowhard, actually.

Did I mention that he moved out five years ago, and that the only contact he has with my kids, especially my youngest, is to drive them crazy with annoying bullshit, mostly to do with (not giving them any) money? (This, after years of giving tons of money to the Catholic Church. He used to say, "This is the holy mother church we're talking about. We have to give 'til it hurts.) Also: our divorce is not yet final, but he has already moved in with this woman and her two daughters, who are young teens. I don't think he was too good for their family--that blessed, sacred, all-important unit!--since their mother divorced their father for my husband. (She also broke up her first husband's first marriage and family. He had been married for twenty years or so, and had two teenage boys.)

I'm shaking my head. With laughter. I laugh at myself for falling for all this. Sometimes I laugh until I cry.

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