Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

[If you are offended by dimwitted opinions of religion, please go away now.]
I saw several people with ashes on their foreheads today and remembered that today is Ash Wednesday.  It got me thinking…

Like many adults, I no longer practice the religion in which I was raised.  And as you can tell from the subject line, I was raised Catholic.  I’m a mix of Roman and Irish Catholic, so if we were with my Italian grandparents, we had Father Tuffolini.  If we were with my Irish grandparents, we went to Father Michael.  And then at school we had Father Kennedy and Father Ed.
Catholicism is a very pagan religion.  As a kid, I thought that ‘Christians’ were completely separate from Catholics.  We were “one holy Catholic and apostolic church” – not a “Christian” church.  “Christians” didn’t have any incense, candles, graphic sculptures of agony or the Stations of the Cross.  They were clean and sterile like the lab where my mom worked.
We had rosary beads with bottomless meditations and mysteries to go with each bead.  We had sacraments, holy water and genuflection and a metaphorical blood ritual.  And of course our teachers wore ritual clothing all the time and lived in a special community.  Ours were called the Sisters of Mercy.  They had names like Sister Gervase and Sister Theon.

 If you wanted to be really true to the worship, you could attend a Latin Mass, where the priest faced the cross like the rest of the congregation and you couldn’t understand a thing.

We had a patron saint for everything that you can think of.  St. Francis of Assisi is famous for guarding animals and St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, but you may not have heard of these:
·         If you want to sell your house, bury a statue of St. Joseph -- upside down -- in the back yard.  You will sell your house.
·         If you want to prevent throat problems, get your throat blessed during the Feast of St. Blaise in February (aka Candlemas Day or “candle mass”).  The holiday fluctuates with the moon, as Ash Wednesday does.  The priest will cross two candles over your throat and whisper blessings.  [St. Blaise had saved a child from choking on a fish bone and so he is now the patron saint of throats.]

[St. Blaise was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers]
I know that there are many more, but I am going from memory and not looking it up on the internet.
Here is a ritual from my Irish grandmother:
·         The full moon is known as “fill ‘er up” moon.  When the moon is full, empty your wallet of all cash, go outside and look at the moon.  You have to be able to see the moon when you do this or it won’t work.  Then open your wallet to the moon and say, “fill ‘er up moon” three times.  You will get extra money that month.
Also, we have a couple of holy relics from St. John Neumann and they have cured breast cancer in the family.   His shrine is in Philadelphia and I went there with my family a couple of times.  (We bought things in the gift shop and then had them blessed.)

 [St. John Neumann lies in state at the shrine in Philadelphia]
We also used to have some weird yucky thing in the refrigerator.  It looked like a specimen in formaldehyde.  I finally said that we needed to get rid of it, and my mom said that it was something holy and that we needed to keep it.  I think my mom gave it to someone to be healed.
As you can see, I could go on and on, so I will leave you with some Catholic imagery.  Of course you must have a glass of red wine and a crust of bread.  Don’t let the bread fall on the floor!


[my bible -- given to me for First Communion]

p.s. I can't believe I know all of this...
Under the Influence, Eminem
The Power, Snap!
 Mary of Silence, Mazzy Star


  1. I love this post, and I can't believe you know all of this, either ;) Wonderful tidbits of a Catholic upbringing. And....I did not KNOW the moon was capable of filling one's wallet! Good to know.
    I was brought up entirely without religion, except for a bit of Buddhism from my Dutch Granfather's corner. Both sides of my family had started out Catholic somewhere way back. However my French grandmother's father took up the Eastern study of Buddhism looooong before it become common in the West. There was a group in Florence, Italy where he taught at a University. My Dutch grandfather (who renounced Catholicism after doing his time in a convent school in England where, apparently, he suffered from some harsh treatment, happened to travel to Florence to study Buddhism as well...and that's how he and my grandmother met. My father, born into a strictly-Catholic Mexican family, was the first in the family to abandon his faith, probably because he was under so much pressure from his mother to become a priest. My husband is another renouncer, as his family is Irish Catholic. So...there you are. I was one of those few born with virtually nothing in the way of a spiritual upbringing. It's all greek to me.

  2. Whoa, I had that Bible! You remember so much...I can't remember our priests' names, but I do remember one minor scandal. Figures! it's funny how one can run but not hide from many of the memories.

    Signed, Recovering Catholic

  3. So funny how we all end up discussing what religion was around or not around in our childhoods. It's always so significant. Fascinating!

  4. this is so interesting! i grew up presbyterian and didn't know these rituals! i need to try the "fill er up!" haha. but in all seriousness...really interesting post..

  5. My Mom was raised Catholic. But by the time I was born she switched to Baptist. The Baptist I was raised on was very strict. No makeup, music or Dancing. Kind of like that 80's movie Footloose. I enjoyed reading this post :)

  6. Thanks for all of your nice compliments, everyone! It's funny what a train ride and a little boredome will produce. I just typed this up and it turned out be pretty cool!

  7. BTW, I did fill 'er up moon and then I won that Down and Out Chic $75 shopping spree. I'm not kidding! It always works. Ask any member of my family.