“Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name,
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
You’ll need that in a minute…for now, just keep reading.
I DON’T KNOW, maybe it’s all this stuff in the news about the Pope retiring that’s had me reminiscing about my old Catholic School days way back yonder. Those were good times, I was able to step outside of my neighborhood and make friends with kids that didn’t live in my neck of the woods: Scottish kids, Cuban kids, White kids, Asian kids, but most importantly, and obviously, Catholic kids. Having attended this school from Kindergarten to the 8th grade, I became knowledgeable about Catholic Mass and how everything was done: How to pray a rosary, the sign of the cross, Stations of the Cross (oh, man, I hated Stations), and everything in between. Better still I had become adept at not getting my full time Baptist all mixed up with my part time Catholic; they were both in their own little compartments. My family, however, only sent me to school there, they didn’t stay there and have to go to First Friday Mass like I’d done for years, they knew nothing about Ash Wednesday, or the celebration of the Assumption and they certainly didn’t know the Catholic prayer rules and not knowing those rules is how my family embarrassed me at my 8th grade graduation Mass.
From the ages of 6 to 13 I had dealt well with the dual religion thing I had going on in my head. I never expected the choir at Catholic Mass to break out in James Cleveland during the week and I never expected to have to say a Hail Mary at my Baptist church on Sunday; I’d learned over time that Jesus was versatile; He expected different things from different people in different places, that’s what I’d made up in my mind anyway. My family was different though. Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and any other faith under the banner “Christian” was church, plain and simple. Church was church, no matter the preacher, priest, or prayer; if Jesus is up there then it’s just church.
But it ain’t.
There are rules to things so I remember having a brief conversation with my family over dinner a few nights before Graduation Mass so I could lay out the ground rules. It was casual so as not to make my parental units think that their 13-year-old was issuing mandates for them to carry out. I mean, they’d gone to my two older sisters’ Graduation Masses and I’m guessing they went off without a hitch, but this was my graduation, I needed assurances. So I laid it all out for them.
- When we kneel to pray, don’t slam the kneelers. It’s loud and disrespectful…
- Only one fingertip is necessary for the holy water when you enter the sanctuary, the nuns get angry if you spill it using extra fingers…
- Non-Catholics can’t take communion in a Catholic Church. Yes, Mama, I know you know Jesus and He is your rock in a weary land but you can’t do it, just sit quietly while they have Communion.
And so on and so on until I’d covered all the bases so that the Baptist family would know the Catholic rules at my Graduation Mass.
Graduation day arrived! As the class processed down the center aisle I spied my family sitting there together: Mama, Dad, my sisters, all my Grandparents, my aunt and her family, and a few of my cousins; they were a well behaved looking lot as they sat there along with the other parents and family smiling and snapping pictures of their favorite 8th graders. Mass got underway with its pomp and circumstance and chants and songs, there were a couple of kneelers that banged to the wooden floor but none of the sound looked like it came from my clan so no worries. About halfway through I was certain that I was going to get through this unscathed which was great because there was going to be a big dinner and dance for the class later and I wanted to avoid the icy glares of my buddies’ Catholic parents whilst eating my dinner. Things were going swimmingly; my little Baptist family was going to make it through without problem. And then, just prior to Communion, in its normal place on the Catholic Mass order of service, there sat The Lord’s Prayer, and that’s when my panic got real, because I forgot to remind them about The Lord’s Prayer.
Now look, this wasn’t my family’s first rodeo at a Catholic Mass, I was the last of three kids that had gone to that school so they had done two prior graduations before mine but that was 7 years ago, certainly I should have added the reminder about The Lord’s Prayer in my dinner conversation with the parents! But I forgot that one, completely whiffed on it, and now trouble was on the way. Why trouble? I come from a church going family, attending and participating in church is something that my people enjoy. But because so much in the Catholic Mass is unfamiliar to a hardcore Baptist family – the Nicene Creed, the Doxologies, even the Bible reads differently – there are few chances for full on immersion and participation in the service…but The Lord’s Prayer though, that’s in every faith’s wheelhouse! That was my family’s time to shine, they knew the words to that one, time to be loud and proud and represent for the Protestants in the building. The fear completely paralyzed me.
For those of you unaware of the ways of The Lord’s Prayer in the Catholic Church here’s a rundown for you. First of all everything in a Catholic Mass is in very hushed tones, it is the anti-Baptist, remember that, it’s important. The prayer, the words and cadences, are all the same until you get to the to the last freakin’ line of the prayer and THAT’S when the Catholics go all P Diddy remix on your ass because after the words “but deliver us from evil” everybody in the congregation stops…praying…right…there and the Priest drives home the last little bit of the prayer alone. My people didn’t know that. They didn’t know that because I didn’t tell them. The shame would be on my own hands. The prayer starts…(in many Catholic hushed voices, and in 12 Baptist voices, not so hushed)
“Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Earth as it is in Heaven…”
I can hear them back there, they’re locked in, grooving. They knew nothing about the Confiteor but this right here, they knew about this. Loud and proud with The Lord’s Prayer…the Baptist way!
“Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespassers, as we forgive those that trespass against us…”
I need something drastic, maybe break into a coughing fit, nah, that’s not drastic enough; I could fake a seizure and fall out in the middle of the aisle, maybe knock over the votive candles into the school flag to the left of the altar and start a small disruptive fire.
“And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil…”
That’s where the family was supposed to stop but that Baptist “Lord’s Prayer” freight train was roaring down the tracks and they were in the home stretch now, full steam ahead which is great, except for the fact that everyone, save the 12 loud Baptists about 5 rows back steamrolled right into the final line completely alone and then realizing that they were out of order let their words trail off into shamed oblivion. I wish I had a recording of it, here, try to hear this in your head as I’ve spelled it…
“FOR THINE IS The kingdom, and the pow’…..” Yeah, it sounded like that.
The Priest had to stop because now his timing is all messed up, he’s standing at the altar looking like, “Which one of these protestant kids didn’t put their family on to how we do things around here!” and, knowing that most the guilty party shared my last name, I could only manage a facepalm along with the Savior.
Worse still is that communion was after The Lord’s Prayer so you have all the Catholics walking down the aisle to receive communion and stealing glances at the seated Protestant family that didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer remix.
To this day I wonder if I could have done more. Perhaps I could have invited them to some practice Masses leading up to graduation, who knows? Well, if you’re gonna be loud and wrong, I’m guessing you should do so while praying. I’m guessing Jesus gives A’s for effort in that respect. Oh well, at least the chicken at the graduation dinner was tasty.
~thanks for reading
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