I didn’t go to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I thought about it. At about 9PM, I googled for Catholic churches in my area and found two that were each only about ten minutes away. Neither was a cathedral-style church, and that kind of turned me off. Still, I figured the Mass would be beautiful. I thought about it. I was dressed and ready to go…
The Catholic churches I attended as a child, in various small towns in the midwest, had high steeples, grand entrances, lots of stained glass, pews and kneelers, the stations of the cross all around the interior walls, and other architectural features which I’m not remembering right now. From the outside they looked like *Churches*, not like recreation centers or branches of a modern public library. They had bells that rang every hour and could be heard around the small town. They inspired.
In my case, as a child, they inspired first fear, and then disrespect, both which I have outgrown. For most of my first five years of elementary school, I attended a Catholic school, with nuns as teachers, Mass every day, and confession every week.
I was an altar boy for at least one of those years, though I remember little of the experience, except that I had to dress up in the white robe, and I never knew what I was doing. And no, I was never abused by a priest. The fact that some boys were is quite shocking to me. Priests were almost as close to God as humans could get, except for bishops and the pope. Priests could do no wrong. Or so I thought at the time.
From sixth grade onward, I attended public schools. Less religion in the school and no more Masses every day, but otherwise not much different for me. Something about the Catholic education was worth it, however. I got a first-class education, and then I excelled in the public school system. But maybe that should be a discussion for another day.
In high school, I really came out as an atheist. I found my voice. I was almost *evangelical* as an atheist, arguing with anyone who would listen, never backing down, and “winning” every encounter, no matter what it took. Most of my friends were also atheists, though some were not, that is, if they accepted me for who I was.
Senior year, late one weekend night, we toilet papered the Catholic church, or at least we tried. If the church had been one of those modern public library things, we could have thrown the rolls of toilet paper over the building. However, none of us could throw a roll over the magestic structure. Instead, we toilet papered one of the statues in the court yard between the church and the building where the priest sleeps (can’t think what that’s called). The priest watched from his window, but didn’t call the police. We were mostly quiet and peaceful, and it was a different era when kids could be kids without getting hauled off to the slammer. But it was also a time when kids didn’t do the attrocious things they sometimes do today.
I was married in the Catholic church. That was in 1981. When I was only twenty four years old. Twenty seven years ago. I guess the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize my divorce. Maybe my marriage and divorce should be a conversation for another day.
Over the years, I have attended Catholic Mass a few times, mostly with friends or girlfriends, or out of curiosity. But never because of a sense of obligation.
I didn’t feel a sense of obligation on Christmas Eve. Maybe that was the problem. Not enough faith. Not enough reason to go. Not enough feeling of religion. Some might say: not enough spirituality. But I don’t know the difference between religion and spirituality, though I’m learning at Journey.
And so I didn’t go to midnight Mass, and instead went to bed well before midnight.