I went to church on Easter. Not because of some sudden revelation, or because I needed to show off a new outfit, or even because I wanted to, because I never want to go to church. But my soon-to-be 91-year-old mom wanted to go, and she can’t go anywhere by herself nowadays.
Even she had her doubts about the project, because we couldn’t go to her parish’s Mass. She can’t handle the steps, which are many and steep there, any more. We had to go to another Catholic church, which, even though it is only a few miles away, my mother was suspicious of. “I heard the priest was weird,” she said of its pastor, repeating some piece of scuttlebutt she had picked up on the gossip chain of old Catholic ladies who judge the relative normalcy of priests.
“All priests are weird,” I told her. She still shoots me dirty looks when I say things like that, but she is stooped by age and instead of her hard stare piercing my faithless soul as she intended, it more or less bounced off the sidewalk.
The church was about two-thirds full, and there was a side room where, if you feared the covid too much to gather together with them, you could watch the Mass on Zoom with a bunch of other people. Everyone was dressed better than I was, because they had planned to be there and I hadn’t. The fact that young Catholic women tend to dress in skirts so short and heels so high on Sunday, that, if they were loitering on an urban boulevard instead of being in a house of God, they could easily be mistaken for prostitutes, was one of the few entertaining facets of that otherwise barren hour.
The singing was left to the choir, for fear of the virus, I imagine, and I was grateful for that, for the sound of a bunch of white people singing off-key is not pleasing to me, and I can’t imagine God likes it much either. The choir even belted out a song that was familiar to me, and I went through several rounds of Catholic calisthenics before I figured out that it had been on the soundtrack of one of my favorite movies, O Brother Where Art Thou?
The only other difference I noted between my last Easter Mass of about forty years ago and this one, besides the inclusion of a fundamentalist Baptist hymn in the Catholic service, was that the priest now sprayed holy water, which he called “Easter Water,” over the entire congregation. He did this by dipping a sponge on a stick in a bucket of the blessed H2O, walking around the perimeter of the crowd and flicking it at us. He hit me up once while passing to my right. My mother and I were sitting in the back of the church, in the handicapped section, and while finishing up, the priest soaked me again with a surprise shot of the sacred fluid, this time from behind.
Guess he figured I needed a second coat.