Saturday, January 24, 2015

You're never too old for Catholic guilt.

While I don't usually post about politics or religion (or anything else that would encourage people to send me hate mail), I feel the need to share our recent encounter with the church.

I don't want to be accused of blasphemy, so I'm simply relating the story exactly as it happened. I'm not speaking ill of the church, just stating the facts, ma'am.

Mr. KK and I aren't super-religious people. We were both brought up Catholic and attended mass with our mothers throughout childhood. We don't currently actively attend church, though we do make monthly donations to the parish in which Mr. KK grew up.

The last time we went to church was probably for someone's wedding or a funeral.

But we're Italian, and Italians like nothing more than tradition. And traditional Catholic Italians baptize their babies. So we were going to dress Max up in a snazzy white outfit and head to the church.

But first, as parents, we had to attend Baptism class. Yay!

When we pulled into the parking lot one night last week, we were worried we were going to be the only couple in the class. But then another SUV (the 'new parent car of the moment') parked next to us. We watched the other couple get out and head up the stairs.

"It's showtime," I said to Mr. KK, who was looking up everything about Baptisms as if trying to cram before a final exam.

"If he asks questions, I want to be prepared," he said, his face lit up by his phone screen. And this is one of the many reasons I love Mr. KK.

Our class leader was a old-school deacon who had been with the parish for about a hundred years. He had an oxygen tank with him, as if to verify his time on earth. More than once throughout the night I was worried we were going to lose him.

The other couple sat across from us, the girl wearing a perma-frown. She truly looked bored and bothered that she was at the class. Hey, we ALL wanted to be home with our babies, but this was just something we had to do. This girl could have been awarded an Oscar in eye rolling.

The deacon walked us through the baptism, asking us not one, not two but a bazillion questions along the way. The first one being, "So, why are you here tonight?" It's a pet peeve of mine when people ask questions like that. It's like walking into a history class in college and the professor asked, "What are you all doing here?"

Mr. KK – God love him – knew the answer to one of the deacon's questions. I was very proud of super-smart husband. Of course Mrs. Eyeroll across from me looked at her husband and said, "Surprised you don't know the answer, Mr. Know-It-All." She sounded like a really fun and easy to get along with wife.

At the end of the class, the deacon excused the other couple and then turned to us. "If you could please stay after class, there are a few things I'd like to discuss with you."

Oh boy.

Nothing ever good came from being asked to stay after class.

He shuffled the paper in front of him, no doubt containing the answers I gave to the secretary's questions when I called to register for the class.

He started by rattling off our address. "Why are you at this church? You live in St. Carmel's jurisdiction."

Mr. KK was quick to answer. "I grew up in this church. I was baptized here, made my communion here, and my mother still goes here."

And, I added in my own head, this is the church we donate to on a regular basis.

"I see," the deacon replied.

He scanned the paper further. "Why weren't you married in a church? Was there a reason?"

It was only a matter of time before this question came up. In a way, I was waiting for it.

"It wasn't because we weren't allowed to," I replied. I felt the need to clear that up. We didn't get married in a church because we didn't want to, not because the church wouldn't let us.

"Have you both been married before?" He eyed us skeptically. I had learned just a half hour ago in this super-informative Baptism class that if you had been married before and you didn't have your marriage pardoned or annulled by the church, then you couldn't baptize your baby. So I knew what he was getting at.

"No," we both replied in unison.

He then explained that while we were married, we weren't truly married in the eyes of the church. He almost made it sound like our marriage was fake, like we stood up before an Elvis impersonator wearing shorts and flip flops. He strongly – and I mean, strongly – encouraged us to contact the priest and have our marriage validated by the church. Because right now, the church didn't recognize our marriage. And that we should do it for our son.

In true Catholic form, Mr. KK and I were feeling guilty. For what, I don't know. Living where we did? Getting married the way we wanted to? I felt like I was in high school getting in trouble.

The deacon looked up from the form once more.

"University Hospital in Georgia," he said.

Um, is there a question in there somewhere?

"What's that all about?" he finally asked.

"Our son was born via surrogate," I replied, my back immediately up and my over-protective Mommy gene on overload.

"I see," he said. He was quiet for a moment and then said, "I guess that should be okay."

Should be okay?

Is the baptism of our child being questioned because he was born via surrogate???

My first instinct was to reply with a snarky comeback (who, me?). 'Well, God gave me cancer, so…' was almost out of my mouth. But this was a deacon and we were in church, so I decided to behave myself this one time.

On the way home, Mr. KK and I couldn't stop talking about how we got held after baptism class. "He doesn't even think we're married, and he almost wasn't going to let Max into the church!" I exclaimed, my blood boiling with each passing minute. "I'm not so sure how I feel about this now. It's all like, 'Well, I guess you guys can join our club…'. It's ridiculous. I thought God didn't judge and accepted EVERYONE???"

I preached on and on the whole ride home.

And then I had a glass of wine and felt a little better.

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