Ok so I've been putting off this post for a very long time. Only because it's going to be heavy on the religion talk and also because I don't want to offend anyone with my perspective. But hang in there, there are some damn funny moments. But let me lay some ground rules. Firstly it is never my intention to impose my beliefs on anyone, they are mine, they are silly, I love 'em, but like I said they are just mine. I also respect everyone's position on religion, love it, hate it, I get it. And I expect a couple of people will be reading about some of these things and think they are hokey or nonsense or whatever. And that's cool too, we all believe what we believe. But I'm going to explain things from my perspective so just take it for what it is.
Ok so back in February my mother asked if I would go to a healing mass at her catholic church. Now let me explain my parents to you, they are what I call "Super Catholic". They go to church every Sunday, they know every hymn, they have church friends, my mom is a Eucharistic Minister (the people that dress in robes and hand out the host or the wine) and they go to bible classes all the time. They give their priests rides to places, they go to functions, they are totally into this whole Catholic thing. BUT you'd never know it unless you were related to them. They aren't preachy, Christ doesn't come up in every conversation, unless we're talking about how Don Brown totally stole his ideas from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. They can easily discuss any religion without ever disparaging another and as I once famously told my dorm mates at Rider, my mother wouldn't care if I sacrificed goats in the backyard as long as I cleaned the deck when I was done (for the record I have never sacrificed anything, except maybe some virgins...).
My mother does occasionally ask me about things like demons or Ouija boards because they'll have a sermon on it and she seems to think I have some kind of perspective on this. Now I don't believe in either so to participate in these conversations I usually have to quote films like Poltergeist. But other than not building your house on an ancient Indian burial ground, I really have no additional information. Also my mom does like to hide palms in my house. Which is really funny cause I have no idea how she does it. I just know that I'll pull out a pocketbook from the closet and get hit in the head with them, or find them under my mattress. For some reason right now they are on the floor of my basement, which is a little baffling. But really, it's endearing.
Anyway, so she asked me to go and I said yes. Look if it was my daughter's brain that woman was drawing a picture of and placing dots on, I'd burn so much fucking sage my neighbors would have to call the fire department. So it was an easy decision. Now I expected to go once to make mom feel better, I ended up having quite an experience and I now go to all of them.
The first surprise was that my mom had no intention of going with me, yeah I was totally like WTF? Apparently this is the one Catholic thing she isn't that into. But Dad came with me, he went to a couple when he was battling breast cancer (a fact I did not know). He tells me that after the mass you go up to the "healers" and you are expected to fall on the floor. He feels it's a bit gimmicky. Truth is I'm a pagan, if there's anything we excel at it's gimmicky. So I'm OK with it but I am half expecting some revival meeting shit. I'm happy to report, it's not like that at all.
The very first thing I notice is the sense of community, there is something oddly comforting about being surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you. I wish they weren't but such is life, so if we're gonna get sick, we may as well huddle together and bond! So the mass is slightly shorter than the Sunday Mass but the same basic rituals. And then instead of a Homily, Monsignor Jeff explains how the Healing portion of the Mass works.
Monsignor Jeff is a recovering alcoholic, he's been sober for years but he speaks about his struggles openly and honestly, there's no infallibility with this man, I like that a lot. He talks about the different kinds of healing people come seeking, physical, mental and spiritual and how important each is to the individual. But then he addresses the "falling". And he says something that makes my pagan heart all a flutter! He explains that the falling is symbolic of surrendering. There's no hocus pocus, there's no one with crutches being touched by a healer and then magically walking on their own. The "falling" is something you allow yourself to do, nothing more. Now we pagans are all about symbolism, so this is totally speaking to me.
Then Monsignor Jeff says "it's really symbolic of surrendering your life over to Christ". And well that's when Jesus and I have to have a little talk. You see I was there as a guest and I had complete respect for and belief in the power of this process. However I'm happy being a pagan, so I won't be converting to Catholicism. So we start to talking. Now when you're a pagan or wiccan you choose your own pantheon. Meaning you choose the god/s and/or goddess/es you want to worship. The reason is that ultimately we believe that we personify the powers that be in our own form and each deity has traits that speak to us. But when I say you can choose, I mean you can really choose. As in you have endless possibilities. So believe it or not you can choose to worship Isis, Pan, Athena, Jesus, etc... The difference is, we assign them all a small "g", meaning we think they are all equal. So talking to Jesus is not really out of my comfort zone persay.
I thank him for allowing me to participate in the healing mass and that I totally respect it. Now we pagans have a bunch of rules, among them are you can't just ask for something and expect it to materialize. Quite frankly you can ask for something, follow all the rules and still never see it materialize, that's called life my friends. But anywho, if you ask the universe or the gods for something you have to be serious. For example if you need a job, you can't just light a few candles and expect Donald Trump at your door, you have to get yourself out there, hit the pavement and put out that resume. You also can't treat the universe like an ATM machine and just ask for shit all the time. You have to balance out your requests, show the world you are grateful for what you already have.
So I promise Jesus I'll figure out how to balance the mass. And since by this point my head hasn't started spinning and no lightening bolts have hit my ass, I'm pretty sure Jesus is cool with it. Ultimately I balanced it out with two things. I give monthly to St. Jude's children's hospital, for one thing that one is a no brainer and two St. Jude is the Saint of healing, so I thought that one was a slam dunk. And I have decided to include Jesus in my morning meditations with the goddess Ostara. I think it's only fair that I honor them both for all of my blessings, but I also like to think they have interesting conversations when I'm not around.
Jesus: Hey there, what's your name?
Ostara: It's Ostara. Interesting factoid, they derived the word Easter from my name.
Jesus: SHUT UP! Easter is totally my holiday!
Ostara: Yup, I know, I know. But you have to admit it's pretty funny that no one has figured out that all those chocolate bunnies and eggs represent fertility huh?
Jesus: Yeah that really is amusing, but chocolate crucifixes really would be kinda icky.
Ostara: Well you got me there. Hey what's up with Christians always giving you a 70's aesthetic?
Jesus: I know I'm either forlorn on the cross or there's a painting that looks like a head shot circa 1976. But you have to admit, my hair is really fabulous.
Ostara: Oh totally!
So once I worked out the particulars, I was ready for the healing. So after the Mass portion, Monsignor Jeff leaves the altar and then returns and meets with the healing teams at the front of the congregation. They gather in a circle and hold hands (sorry Catholics but this is so awesomely pagan that I'm practically floating off of my seat!) and then they break off into three teams. I choose the same team at my friends, the Bottiglias who I spoke of a few blogs ago, the woman clan that I love so much. And what I love is that one of the healers has a total Stevie Nicks vibe to her.
It's a rather magical experience and my friends' mom Madelyn (my sister soldier) asked if she could come up with me and I was a sobbing mess! I explained to the healing team that I had Stage 4 lung cancer, which was about 3 weeks after I was diagnosed and I have to say that was not easy to verbalize. They put their hands on me, said prayers and, when I was ready, I was lowered to the ground by Matthew. Matthew was John's student and was on my brother's swim team when they were kids. Poor Matthew has to lower all 200+ lbs of me and does it as gently as possible. I should really pay for his physical therapy. Anyway, I took in the peace of the moment and then looked up and saw my dad, husband and friends ready to help me off the floor. It was a crazy powerful moment!
I've been to four so far and the highlight of the Mass is really the testimonials. It's just nice to hear people talk about overcoming illness or escaping a bad relationship. People talk about battling addiction, fighting cancer, recovering from grief. You applaud everyone's successes and you never get tired of hearing stories that have happy endings. And then there was the last mass.
The first testimonial of the night was an older woman who starts off by saying she was sick and the doctors didn't know what was wrong with her. So we are all holding on to see how this turns out...oh my. So she says that they put a Foley catheter into her bladder and her bladder hurt like hell. The nurse says to her "well your bladder is mad at you cause you have a Foley in there." They send her home. She tells us that her sister came over. And then she called her daughter to come over. Then she called her other daughter to come over, that daughter (apparently the only reliable member of her family) takes her back to the hospital and gets her to see a urologist. The Doctor tells her "I will take out the Foley but I will do nothing more until you come see me in my office on Monday". I can only suppose this happened at SIUH cause seriously, who are these dumb fucks taking care of this woman?
So her daughter prays over her bladder. She gets the urge to pee, but is too afraid to use the bathroom. Now at this point I finally realize, this is not a story about baffled doctors who couldn't help her and then suddenly they figured it out. Nope, this is the story about how Jesus helped her pee. I look up and I see my dad and Laura, who are in front of me, looking down, laughing. I look around the church and everyone is trying desperately not to laugh out loud. And then suddenly I realize how this story is going to end.
So her daughter tells her, mom don't be afraid, just go into the bathroom and try. She says no, but her daughter urges her to try. So she goes into the bathroom and she says "and after 4 days by the power of Christ I urinated!" The entire congregation erupted in applause. And then she said it a couple of more times which only made us applaud more, until finally someone had the presence of mind to take the microphone away from her.
Christine looks at me and says "how did you not laugh?" And I was like "because I kept hoping this wasn't really about peeing, by the time I realized it was, it was too late, my brain short circuited!" And then Christine says "If you don't blog about this, I will kill you!"
So Laura and I have discussed this at length because we are riddled with guilt over it, but Laura made an excellent point. We weren't laughing at her pain, it was the dramatic flair of her story. And the fact that she kept telling us things that weren't important, like I still don't know why she called her sister and other daughter. What the hell did they do? Taunt her with a running faucet? And then of course there was the fact that she just wasn't in on the joke. She could have told it and been in on it, we could have all laughed together and we would have genuinely applauded that she found her healing. But instead she just kept going and going with endless details and this overwhelming sense of doom. I'm telling you this story went on for close to 10 minutes. I'm pretty sure even Monsignor Jeff was baffled.
On a side note, at the second Mass I attended in March, Monsignor Jeff told a story about someone who wasn't Christian who received healing from a Healing Mass, because "he may not have believed in Jesus but Jesus believed in him." I kinda took that as a sign that Jesus and I were cool. So anyway that's the Healing Mass, all in all it's pretty wonderful experience. It's a time for bonding, sharing experiences, hugs, kisses and hope. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jesus for all my worry free peeing experiences. I owe you one buddy!
We are always thinking of you and praying for you. Thank so so much for keeping us posted on your blog. You have an amazing attitude and a fabulous sense of humor. Stay strong and keep fighting hard!
Love, Amy, Ted and Uncle Ralph