Mar 29, 2024, 06:29AM

It’s Not Our Crucifixion

Good Friday really wasn’t good.

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As a recovering Catholic, I survived over a decade of Catholic school, but have been mostly out of the game since I agreed with my now-30-year-old who refused confirmation because “the church hates gays and women.” All four of my kids were baptized, and we've played the “holly-lily” game of stopping by on Christmas and Easter, but my heart hasn’t been in it for ages.

As a kid, my parents lined the six of us up and we piled into and out of a car at Mother of Divine Providence Roman Catholic Church, where we were expected to behave like the perfect saints after whom we’d been named. Genuflect, cross yourself with all the correctly-timed moves (memorialized by Dane Cook in the Christ Chex standup), don’t fidget, remain silent, offer peace greetings pleasantly, sing on cue, etc. If we didn’t, there were corporal punishment consequences, but beatings were all part of that “hosewater and neglect” Gen X t-shirt aesthetic you see all over TikTok.

Our house was more Extreme Catholic Makeover than most. My mother’s name is Eleanor—God bless her, she just turned 80—and I remember thinking as a child, since she cleaned the church, that Paul McCartney had written “Eleanor Rigby” about her. She required us to pray the rosary on our knees in front of the Blessed Mother (my namesake) every Sunday night. That’s a long time to be on your knees when you’re a little kid; when I read Carrie I remember thinking, “Your mom too, huh?”

She went through a “Charismatic Catholic” phase and attended meetings that were characterized by being baptized in the holy spirit, speaking/praying in tongues, and healing rituals that included falling over or passing out in the name of the holy spirit. As a child I was brought to these services and found them terrifying, particularly the “praying in tongues” aspect as it related to my own mother. I was scared to death seeing adults fall on the floor “in the spirit” and saw it as cult-like to the ability of my kid brain to comprehend that notion.

But as far as our garden-variety Catholic religious abuse went, Good Friday always took the cake—or didn’t, because we weren’t allowed cake or any other food. It was the Super Bowl day of Lent, so we’d already been giving up whatever we gave up (I learned from a lenient nun to cheat on that deal on Sundays), but for Good Friday, during the crucifixion hours, it was game time.

I’m not sure who in the all-knowing Catholic Church job between rotations for diddling altar boys’ it was to figure out that the EST Jesus hung on the cross was 12-3 p.m. But, allegedly, this is when it took place in Philadelphia, so we were required, regardless of our six young ages, to kneel for three hours “during the crucifixion.”  The idea was to remember that Jesus, who was currently grinning down at us from his 1970s-newscaster/Kenny-Loggins lookalike, cheaply-framed portrait on the wall, died for our sins. Therefore, we should get rug-burn on our knees from the worn-out red carpet surrounded by Asian-revival inspired décor in our shabby apartment complex, because somehow that would make a difference. Three hours of no food, no breaks, nothing but the rosary, the family Bible, some additional bible stories, and maybe a quick run-through of the stations of the cross for variety, but nothing crazy.

We loathed this day. We were kids. We just wanted to fast-forward to coloring some Easter eggs and the rolling away of the stone tomb so we could find a few cheap plastic eggs in the yard, eat some Peeps and ham, and call it a day.


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