Today is Palm Sunday so I reflect, at length below, on what that means to my life.
I was born and baptized in 1942 in Buenos Aires. While my father was a non-practicing Anglican my mother and grandmother were devoted Roman Catholics. I had my first communion and was later confirmed. Confirmation is one of the lesser known Roman Catholic sacraments. Its purpose is to make the confirmee a soldier of Christ. As it was explained to me by Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. in my Roman Catholic boarding school of St. Edward’s in Austin, Texas, it is not about carrying a rifle but about learning one’s doctrine well so as to be able to explain to others what one believes.
It is interesting to note that Charlie Parker as a little boy sang in a Catholic church choir. He composed a jazz classic called Confirmation.
My grandmother, a product of 19th century Spain
told me that Jews had killed Christ. My mother was not that harsh. She was kind and gracious with my across the street friend Mario Hertzberg.
I was sent to that Roman Catholic School in Austin, because after I finished my 8th grade in an American School in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila (my mother was the teacher), there was no school I could go to. The nearest was the one in Austin. My mother sacrificed her tight budget to send me there. I received a very good liberal arts education and my teachers, particularly Brother Edwin were not heavy handed in teaching Christian doctrine. In fact Brother Edwin taught us theology laced with lots of philosophy.
|With my grandmother Circa 1951|
It was in Buenos Aires in 1966 while I was doing my military service in the Argentine Navy that I found myself on a hot fall day in the second week of April reading a Time Magazine while sitting on a bench across from the tiger cage of the Buenos Aires Zoo. I was careful not to soil my summer whites I was wearing. The Time cover was a shocker.
In 1970 my sick mother (Menniere’s Disease) suffered
terrible vertigo spells and had a constant ringing in her ears. She could not hear herself when she played Beethoven on her piano.
One day she told me, “I am a woman of 50 who still has sexual desire. I have not been with a man for many years. I have lost my faith in the power of prayer. I do believe in God but I believe he is withdrawn from humanity. I have no reason to keep living.” I did not know what to say to her and I have no idea if I did say anything to calm her down. She died two years later in the presence of my Rosemary and me.
I have some relatives in Buenos Aires who are devout Roman Catholics to the point that the patriarch was a member of the Opus Dei until he quit because it was not conservative enough for him. He knows not to argue with me about religion. I know Catholic doctrine much better than he does. He does insist I should convert.
What I believe, in this world of social media where people will write that they suffer from haemorrhoids, is something that is entirely private.
But I will show some disdain to those that wish us a happy
Palm Sunday not knowing that it is all about a man who will within a week be
crucified. It really is not a happy Sunday. It prepares us to what is to follow
and that is what Lent is all about. Even if you do not believe in anything a week (Lent) where one reflects on one's inevitable death can be a good thing.
I believe (and here I will be candid) that when my grandmother would call me from my playing on the street and that she and my mother would read that last words of Christ on Good Friday, it marked my first awareness that something called death existed. This was something good about Good Friday as I see it now.
In this 21st century people make fun of Roman Catholicism but do not do so about other religions. In some cases if they were to do so that would put them a situation where their bodily health would be in jeopardy. You can safely make fun of Catholics, Easter, the pope and damn the church for all kinds of ill treatment of minors, etc. It is only a matter of time before nuns will be found to have perpetrated unspeakable crimes. And of course we know that all rabbis were and are saints. They never ever did stuff that Catholic priests did. The only religion with a fair-game-approach to insult is the Roman Catholic one.
For me, while keeping my views on religion to myself, I am thankful for Luther putting up that document on the church door. It resulted in Bach writing some of the most beautiful music ever composed. And what can we say of soaring cathedrals and what they did to architecture?
Perhaps one of the few leaders with a positive reputation in our 21st century world is my Argentine pope.
I believe that as the Argentine that I am I can be thankful (to whoever) that we have Pope Francis and Messi.
Both my Rosemary and I believed we would never meet. We believed in oblivion.