As a lifelong Catholic, I have been to many a church. Each one is different of course, but one of the nicest things about being Catholic is that the fundamentals don't change. I've been to churches on four different continents and I can say this with certainty. The order in which things are done is the same, week on week, year on year. The homilies differ, but I've got to say that after thirty years of listening to them I know that all priests tend to focus on the same general themes. It's comforting to me-- the knowing what to expect. It's rare something in life offers such consistency.
When starting at a new parish there is always an adjustment period, and the one I'm currently attending is no different. It is easily among the most beautiful I've ever been to, but that's not what sets it apart from the churches of my past. What sets it apart is not the population, not the stained glass work, not even the priest who really knows a thing or two about a thing or two. It is the Eucharist. They use actual bread. Not wafers with tiny crosses on them. Bread that is ripped up and shared among the crowd. It's awesome-- and delicious.
As any Catholic knows, the sharing of the Eucharist is the most sacred part of the Mass. The bread and wine are blessed, people line up, and everyone gets one. I remember the first time I took my ex to Mass with me. When it was time to go up for Communion I turned to him and hissed 'Wait here.' He did, and when I came back he looked at me all dejected and said, 'How come everyone else got samples and I didn't?' It took me awhile to convince him that Communion wafers taste like nothing. Not anything like God.
In Asia going to a Catholic service involved metal detectors, identification, and a vacant visa office that served as our church. The poor priests kept all the church paraphernalia in a large Tupperware that was hidden in a hall closet in the building. Most weeks, as they said their blessings, they would push a stack of what would be the Eucharist through a plastic wrapper that came from a cardboard box labeled 'Communion wafers'. This always conjured images of the priest ordering a year's supply of pens, toilet paper, and Jesus through Amazon.
'Jesus hasn't arrived yet,' I could hear the priest say on the phone to customer service. 'We got the post it notes, but do you have a tracking number for Jesus?'
Anyway, instead of saying my prayers today when I took Communion I allowed my mind to contemplate the taste of the bread I was eating. It was fantastic, really, with a hint of honey. Which made me think about how nice this bread might taste with hummus. Speaking of which, I keep meaning to make some hummus and put that food processor we got for our wedding to work. And on that note, where the hell is our wedding album? Man, our photographer sucks.
This is what happens when you take away my routine.
Before I knew it, the service was over and I was thinking about all the scathing reviews I could write about our photographer on Yelp while the rest of the congregation was shaking hands and offering up their final blessings of peace and love for the week.
I looked up at Jesus hanging there at the front of the church and smiled because--let's be honest-- if there's one guy who understands irony, it's him.