Friday, March 28, 2008

Insulted by a priest

L.'s post over at Glittering Generalities today reminded me that I wanted to tell you a story about something that happened at my father-in-law's funeral, but then it was a sad time, and I wanted to wait a couple of weeks, and then I forgot about it. But then I was e-mailing Amy the other day, and she and I got to talking about our mutual distaste for proselytism and churches in general, and I told her the story. She was floored, to say the least.

So here it is.

One of esposo's dad's last wishes was to have his funeral in the Catholic church. Neither esposo nor I am Catholic, though esposo grew up in the church, and his mother (my MIL) is still pretty Catholic. I've been to weddings in churches (not my own, mind you), and if that's what someone wants, so be it, to each his/her own. So we had the funeral in the Catholic church in downtown Poas.

To begin with, the priest was late. I think that's just insensitive and rude, but whatever. The worst was yet to come. Since esposo, son, MIL and me were all the family my father-in-law had left, we sat in the front pew. Everyone was visibly upset, it being a funeral and everything. However, esposo, being the good man that he is, still did all of the rites and prayers and that thing where the priest says something and the congregation says something back in response. I didn't, because I don't know any of them, not even in English, let alone in Spanish, so it was obvious I was not Catholic. About halfway through the mass, the priest does a reading that is supposed to be relevant to the occasion. After he launches into a spiel about pagans (which always irritates me to no end, because priests obviously have no idea what pagans believe, or they would know pagans see God in everything), he goes on to talk about raising children in the Catholic church, and at one point says that if a child's father is one religion, and the mother is another, the child basically grows up with no God at all. It was as if he had tailored his speech specifically to insult our family. Ok, so he's saying that my son can't believe in God because of what his parents choose to believe? Am I hearing that right? At that point, son and I went outside, and I waited until the mass was over, and then just walked behind the hearse to the cemetery with everyone else. (Oh, and I did sing "When the Saints Come Marching In" for my father-in-law, though no one could hear me, because I promised him I would. I always found the tradition of the big band playing music at one's funeral as they do in New Orleans to be a wonderful thing -- celebrating a life instead of mourning a death.)

At first, I sort of shrugged off the priest's actions, as, well, he's just an ass and stuck in his ways and no one is going to change him. But then I thought about it and it made me angry. How dare he do this in front of half the town of Poas, when everyone knows that the son of the man who has just passed away is married to a woman who is not Catholic? And what did that ridiculous speech of his have to do with a funeral, anyway? A couple of esposo's friends have even mentioned how inappropriate and rude it was. I've mostly gotten over the anger about it, though it will always leave a distaste in my mouth for the Catholic church and I am highly unlikely ever to step inside one for a mass of any sort again.


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