After the visit with my Mom’s side of the family a few weeks ago, where we did a lot of reminiscing about growing up Catholic, my brain uncovered my most embarrassing mass-related moment that I had blocked out years ago. And you know how I feel about truly embarrassing moments, there’s no better place to share them than here.
First – let me tell you a little about a Catholic mass in case you’ve never been to one. It’s a beautiful ceremony with a lot of singing and standing and sitting and kneeling and group prayers and…well, it’s a lot. There are responses from the congregation and songs everyone knows so being a non-Catholic, it can almost be overwhelming. But if you’re Catholic, it’s all the same mass where ever you go, just with slight variations.
Everyone knows their mass at their church perfectly, but there are differences between churches and sometimes between priests. Some priests like to sing all of their responses, some priests still like using latin bits. Some churches kneel during some parts and others do not. Some churches do hand-holding, others do not. So, being Catholic does not guarantee you’ll know exactly what to do/say when. You may find yourself going to kneel when no one else is, or starting to stand when everyone else is still sitting. If you’re visiting a new church you may start to recite the same response your church uses, only to find everyone around you is saying something slightly different. Since I come from a long line of Catholics, visiting family always meant attending a new church and sitting in the back and waiting a beat to do or say ANYTHING. This keeps you from embarrassing yourself too much.
BUT THEN THERE IS COMMUNION. If your church is the old, basic cross-shaped style like mine was growing up, Communion flows in a logical pattern. Two lines down the middle that circle back around the edges. Boom. No struggles. Same path in every church. We had at least TWO churches in Knoxville like that. Easy peasy.
But then they started getting modern and unique with their layouts and tried to keep the congregation from spreading out too far AWAY from the priest and the sacrament. So, many modern churches have more of a radial/pie-piece type layout so the people are spread more around the alter and no further away. This means there are several aisles, and therefore 14 million different paths one can take for Communion and 14 million ways back to your pew. If you’re a newbie? You just try to keep an eye on how the lines are flowing before you jump in.
Once, when visiting a new church alone, I made a fatal error in where I chose to sit in the church. I thought I was sitting in the back, which I was in terms of where the everyone faced. But I was not in terms of the way the communion line ran. I was basically in the beginning. I almost panicked and left but thought that FOR SURE I’d get behind someone I could just follow. And I did, except that the person WENT UP TO THE ALTER AFTER SHE RECEIVED COMMUNION. My brain reacted quick enough to tell me THAT was wrong (it turns out she was a song leader) but not fast enough to help me figure out what line I needed to get in to get back to my pew.
SO DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED?
I ended up back in line for Communion again. I basically made a circle the wrong way around the church and instead of ending up at my pew, I was back in line for more of that blessed Body of Christ. And because I don’t do well under pressure, especially when my pride is a risk, I just decided to get a second dose of Jesus and then make a run for it.
Now, you Catholics will be wondering why I didn’t just opt for a blessing the second time around. But, since I grew up Catholic I never bothered to learn about the international Catholic symbol for “No Jesus For Me, Please.” Kids didn’t get in the Communion line before they could receive it in my church, I did not know about the “blessing only” move until I was an adult and read it on the back of a church newsletter in a letter for our, “Non-Catholic Visitors.”
So, I got seconds of Jesus.
And on that run I turned the OTHER way with the line and got to my pew, grabbed my purse, and left before the closing prayers.
I’m not sure how obvious my error was, but considering how much new people always stuck out to me at my church, especially new people in the front of the Communion line, I couldn’t fool myself into thinking no one noticed. I knew I could never return to that church again, at risk of being label the 2-Time Christ Girl forever.
Once is not enough for me! Thanks! I need TWO does of Jesus in my body this week people, it’s been ROUGH!