Hanging on a Prayer

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Ever since I learned this prayer as a kid — over 60 years ago — I have liked it.

Hail, Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

I listened to it in my thoughts and I figured it out a couple days ago after I uttered the back half of the prayer while with a friend..

After all these decades, why do I still recite this prayer in my head?

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.”

First of all, the phrase “Holy Mary, Mother of God …” is very poetic. Sometimes I say that phrase when I’m shocked and/or surprised. I like that phrase better than saying, “Holy Christ!”

In the vernacular of the Holy and Apostolic Roman Catholic Church, cursing is taking the Lord’s name in vain. There is this other curse I use nearly ever day, especially when I’m extremely frustrated, “GOD-EFFING-DAMMIT!” I don’t actually use the term “effing,” I usually drop an F-bomb in there.

Obviously I’m writing about this for a few laughs, so by all means laugh, or chuckle, or chortle or have a guffaw, but there is a serious point in here somewhere and I aim to find it.

And before I forget: How I loved a good Milwaukee fish fry on Fridays, or short of that, a good cheeseburger or Big Boys and fries on Friday. Hey! I’m a sinner. What can I tell you?

The congregation I grew up in, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, used to have a great fish fry. According to their website, they will have fish fries every Friday in March, except St. Patrick’s Day. Holy crap! St. Paddy’s day is going to stretch into three days! Good luck with that, my drinking friends.

The fact that Catholics say this prayer — and all prayers to saints or dead relatives — proves, to some other Christian denominations, that we Catholics are not Christian at all, but idol-worshipping and blasphemous heathens with one foot in Hell.

One would hope God saves the retribution of eternal damnation for sins more serious and despicable than asking saints and dead loved ones to intercede on our behalf, but according to some other Christian denominations, all of us Catholics are going straight to hell. And don’t get them started on the popes!

Occasionally someone will tell me, “There’s a special place in Hell for people like you!”

Really? I don’t have to spend eternity with the usual assortment of unrepentant miscreants, and get to spend it with other special, more blasphemous and heretical miscreants? Man, I like that! The question is, Will God condemn me to that special place in Hell, or does he just condemn me to Hell and when I get there Satan takes one look at me and says, “I have a special place for you.”

Links have been added to those two words, “heresy” and “blasphemy” in the dictionary in case you are a little fuzzy about the true meaning of those terms. I’m occasionally confused about which of those two irrefutable religious rules I’m violating, so it’s nice to re-educate myself on the topics.

My Dear Sister Mary Lou would never condemn me to that special place in Hell out loud, but she might be thinking it from time-to-time when I’m being a special kind of A-S-S-H-O-L-E.

I’m glad I never got my mother for a Catechism teacher. I was questioning a lot of things about the Catholic Church and the New Testament that just didn’t sound right to me, especially the contradictions. Here is a small collection of inconsistencies and contradictions in The Bible. I was reprimanded a few times by the Nuns that taught me, and they would also add, “What would your mother think?”

Considering they always told my mother what I had said or done in CCD, I didn’t have to imagine what Mom would say or do upon learning of my transgressions because those nuns usually filled her in after every CCD class.

My friend Woz had my Mom for CCD. He said she was very nice … WTF? But we can take that with a grain of salt because, as everyone who knows Woz will tell you, he has a bit of the Eddie Haskell in him. By-the-by, if you think that is insulting then you don’t know your “Leave It to Beaver” as well as you think. Despite his occasionally delinquent words or deeds, Eddie was a very lovable character. If there are any folks who I would love to have them leaving me holding the bag, It’s Eddie Haskell and my friend Woz. Not that Woz ever left me holding the bag for anything. He is a stand up guy.

Now a days if Woz and I are holding bags it’s usually the leftovers from a dinner we had at some remarkable — or unremarkable — restaurant, like George Webb’s. When I get nostalgic for Milwaukee, it almost always revolves around the food. Like in my previous post I mentioned Frank’s European Sausage Factory. Today it’s George Webb’s.

My two remaining brothers and remaining sister (the aforementioned Mary Lou) were talking about the old Marc’s Big Boy Drive-In on Highway 100 and Oklahoma Av., MLou used to be one of the waitresses hopping to the parked cars. We, the family, would go for a night out and visit Mary Lou at Marc’s Big Boy and get some food and beverages, It was always busy on weekend nights. People with cool cares would cruise Highway 100 so as to show off their fly cars. There were several spots along the strip where we could take it all in.

Sadly, there is only one Big Boy’s in Wisconsin, located in Germantown. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a drive-in, so no car-hops. Still, the next time I’m in MKE I would like to have a lunch or dinner, just for old time’s sake. And a breakfast, lunch and diner at George Webb’s.

It’s not really astounding or baffling, but I need to confess that I have completely forgotten what it is I was writing about in the first place … Oh yeah, the “Hail Mary” and my many forms of blasphemy and heresy.

In that prayer, in the second half, right after “Holy Mary, Mother of God …” we ask her to “… Pray for us sinners, Now and at the hour of our death.”

I’ve always liked the entire prayer, bust especially the closing stanzas because we humbly ask Mary to pray for us now and when we are ready to pass on. I believe that is a message of faith and hope — a very poetic message of faith and hope.

Sometimes I question why I left the church and renounced the belief in a god. To be honest, I still enjoy many of the Catholic rituals, especially the High Masses when the celebrants (priests, deacons, altar boys and other minor celebrants) lead the mass in their finest robes and often, but not always, reciting the words of the Mass in Latin.

The Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, for instance, is lovely, especially if the church has a choir and several musicians playing the music. A skilled organist or pianist will do of course.

During Lent I enjoyed going to the Lentin services held between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. We would do the Stations of the Cross and then a short ceremony honoring God, Mary the Mother of God and all the Disciples. It was very solemn and I suspect very inspirational in a religious way.

On the Saturday before Easter — Holy Saturday — we would take a basket of food to the church to be blessed by the priest. By doing so our entire Easter Sunday meal would be blessed. Good Catholics, like my mother, took all those rituals seriously and believed, without a doubt, those rituals were real and doing God’s work. And one thing I had forgotten: When she could do it our mother would have still still and quiet from noon until 3 p.m. on Holy Friday, they day Jesus died on the cross, on Mt. Calvary. Easter week is a very holy time of the year for Christians, especially Catholics, and no days are more holy than Holy Friday and Easter Sunday — the death dn then resurrection of Jesus. I’m not going to joke about it. Many of my relatives are true believers an I would hate to offend them just for a few laughs.

Conversely, as much as I enjoyed the rituals, I had little or no belief — or faith — the premise behind all those rituals was real. I just wanted to mac down on that Easter ham and taters, veggies, etc.

The fundamental requirement to be Christian in any denomination is this: you have to believe there is one god, manifested in The Trinity: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

We used to say “Holy Ghost,” but then we Catholics had the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Vatican II for short, in which the hierarchy of the church spent the better part of four years changing some tenets and practices of the Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church. It started under Pope John XXIII and finished under Pope Paul VI.

The church was bound by two master tenets: Neo-Scholasticism and the “encyclicals” from previous popes. In one of those, Pope Pius X stated that “modernism” was Satanic, heresy, and that all good Catholics were to avoid and condemn anything that even remotely felt and smelled like modernism. That was in 1907.

In 1962 Pope John XXIII said (sort of), “We gotta change some of this shit if we’re going to make to the 21st century.” Well, you know, he said it in Italian and Latin. Many things about the church changed. We went from the priest facing the altar with his back to the congregation, to having the altar moved forward from the wall and the priest behind the altar facing the congregation. And they said the Mass in English and went with rather bland robes for the Mass.

Anyway, things changed, but we are still commanded to believe and have faith in one God, as represented by the Holy Trinity.

So I’m an atheist, with a touch of neo-Buddhism in my beliefs. Long explanation short: I view Nature, and the universe as my higher power.

“Go out in the ocean and try to stop one of those swells.” I couldn’t, so his next words were (approximately) this: “See? There’s a power greater than you” Case closed, end of the discussion. I had found my Higher Power … when a friend was trying to teach me to surf at South Carlsbad Beach. I never really got the hang of surfing and have always preferred getting under the water, but that spiritual lesson has stuck with me for more than 25 years.

Try to stop a wave (Tim Forkes)

At any rate I’m going to start reciting the “Hail Mary” when I do my morning routine and maybe throughout the day. There isn’t anything wrong with reciting,

“Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.”

It provides at least a little comfort, some familiarity with my past, distant as it may be. I’m not believing in super natural deities and the clouds opening up to signal the end of all time. I can’t explain it, really. I don’t believe that central tenet of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim faiths, but I like that one prayer.

At this point in my life I’ve been taking stock, an inventory. Not as some morbid longing for the end, but to take some measure of my life. Earlier today I was trying to make arrangements to see Dead and Company at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado. I changed my mind and decided to just pay to watch all three shows — plus the two in Los Angeles (both sold out) — on YouTube.

There’s still so much life to be experienced. On the other hand I do not wish to leave my life unprepared, my family left holding the bag. I want to honestly say I tried to do my best at least some of the time.

Holy Mary, Mother of God! The garbage truck arrived. It’s making one helluva lot of noise. What can Mary, the mother of God, do about that? Nothing really. By the time I finished writing these last two sentences the truck moved on to the next collection of dumpsters. So maybe it’s time for me to move on.

Anyone going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras?

(Stay tuned for part 2)