I went to mass today to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham - after all, it is in Walsingham that I've felt touched by God in so many ways: from finally completely forgiving my uncle his sexual abuse to those wonderful God-filled conversations with John F. and others. And let me tell you - there's nowhere like the smoking tent out back of the Bull at about 2am for finding God.
I know, I know. I've drifted away from church to create a reasonable balance, so that when I do go, I'm not driven crazy by liturgical Nazis, the mediocre choir, the high proportion of shallow, narcissistic parishioners. But I can't drift forever - I must decide whether to stay or go. From the Oratory. From the Catholic Church. And I can't do that from the position of rebellion and general ill will I've been feeling. So I'm going to try to maintain a balance where I'm more involved, so I can make a decision from the right place. But that's another post.
It started off well. I popped in, said 'Hi' to John W. and went to the novena. I was reasonably cheerful despite the cheesy Marian hymn with which we began mass (note: WHY do all the Marian hymns have inane Victorian words and playground tunes? Is that how little Catholics think of the Mother of God?). There was even an adorable 3-4 month old girl with the most gorgeous smile being good as gold a few rows in front of me. I entered the wanting-to-hold-baby melting phase that I would DIE before admitting to in front of any of my clerical friends. Tough bitch works so much better with men in dog collars.
Mass was in Latin, my preferred language, said by someone who has a semblance of Italian vowels. (Fr...ex-Parish Priest's vowels make me want to climb the damn walls) I prefer Latin not because it's the only liturgically valid language (*hurl*), but because of its sensuality - liquid vowels, soft consonants. Latin is sexy.
It was all fine until the Eucharistic Prayer, when the woman with the baby decided that she needed to kneel and read the translation of a Eucharistic prayer she hears in English every goddamned day. That, of course, meant that there was no room for baby. So what did she do?
She put the baby on the hard wooden floor in the central aisle of the church. Without a seat or even a blanket. Or even her precious coat.
Yes, that's right. The baby was directly on the hard floor of the centre aisle, so that this...no, I won't use the c-word...could kneel, look pious and read a translation she KNOWS. Oh, and she looked over about 3 times in 15 minutes.
I went from mushy to shaking with rage in 2 seconds. You do NOT put a vulnerable person in danger. You do NOT place a child on a cold, hard floor in a heavily travelled aisle in church. Granted, no one should have moved during that time, but you can't be sure. You do not place YOUR 'need' to act pious over a child's safety. A baby's need for love and security trumps EVERYTHING.
I nearly went over and picked her up, but I retained enough sense to know that it would make matters worse. Even so, I wanted to stand up and say to Fr Provost, who was saying mass, "THIS.THIS is what makes me angry. THIS is what I hate about your parishioners - that they place piety over what is really important. That you reward this apparent piety in every form it comes - from the asskissing parishioners to the insufferable altar servers, even when others are placed at risk. THIS is why I walked."
And even after she no longer needed to kneel, she left the baby on the floor until she had to go up for communion...
..which I received in a towering rage. But since I felt my anger at her placing the little one in danger was justified, I haven't a twinge of conscience about it.
Mass ended, I knelt to pray, then turned on my heel and left.
Fortunately, none of the three brethren I would have talked to about this came through just then, because I think I would have cried tears of rage on the shoulder that appeared as I told him what happened. I might well have said, "Remind me. Remind me why I'm here. Why I care. Why I keep trying to make this work. Why I don't just leave."
Even now, I'm not sure I can answer that.