Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Faith Journal: the Creed

I haven't had many psychic experiences. This might not be one, but it felt like one.

When my son's were 6 and 8, Michael and I took them to a Smith family reunion in Ohio.

We had a good time. It was a bit more stressful for me than Michael because I was meeting a lot of new people. The Smith's were welcoming, though, and I enjoyed myself. The boys were about as cute as they could be. I was proud to show them off to this family of strangers.

Still I was starting to look forward to going home. We had one more event, a Catholic mass that was being put on for the Smiths. They were a pretty religious family. They had nuns in the family. Michael was from the 'fallen away' side but everyone else was still very Catholic. This particular mass was in honor of Michael's Aunt and Uncle and their marriage of 50 years. The family whispered that they weren't doing so well. Indeed, they only lived a few more years.

I felt snappish and a little false in my nice clothes. What is the difference between honoring another's traditions or smothering your own feelings? Attitude, I guess, and mine was deteriorating in spite of my best intentions. The idea of sitting through a mass finally gave shape to my own suppressed feelings of rebellion. It had been a long vacation spent in small talk, in group settings with new people, in projecting my own booster feelings of pride in my small family. I was starting to wear out.

The chapel filled with the Smith clan.

The mass began, and the old ritual took hold of me. I know the mass. A childhood of Sundays puts it at the synapse level. I started to relax. I marveled at my good memory. Since this was a special family Mass for older Catholics, part of it was in Latin. The Catholic church stopped doing the Latin Mass when I was six years old and yet I can still remember the words. I said all the words to all the prayers, trying not to think too much, as if they were mantras, or nursery rhymes.

My mind drifted while we said the creed. ‘I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ A jarring thought jumped into my head, without any invitation, "The Creed is a test. In the old days if you didn’t say it you were killed!’’ The thought came in with full force and I was stunned to silence.

I stopped my simple recitation. I had never thought of it before; they put the Creed in the mass long ago so the priests could check on the faithful. People have probably died because they wouldn’t say these words.

Right in the middle of this lovely Catholic ceremony I began to shake. I vividly saw, the people burning. I smelled the fear and the smoke. I sat down and grab my husband’s hand. "The creed's a loyalty test! How can they have something like that in worship". He turned and smiled at me, not hearing a word.

Even if he had heard me, how could I have explain such a peculiar vision.

I sat through the rest of the service quietly not moving with the service or saying the words. What had taken place? The Catholic church is so old that even the shaggiest old horror can mellow and lighten with time. The creed doesn't have power anymore except as an element of worship, but at one time it did. For a few moments I had felt the church’s bloody history.

After the Mass we went to a party for Michael's aunt and uncle. I shook Uncles’s hand and he smiled vacantly at me. It was all a bit much for him, poor old man.


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

OnlyConnect said...

So who is this Anonymous parent figure :)! You sound like someone who knows me. You have to give hints-- I realize, people who don't want to join up have to come on as Anonymous but that doesn't mean you can't put it in the message.

Thanks for commenting on that post. I have wised up over the years and don't use names but this post still has my husbands family name in it. I need to go back and 'Smith' it up.