I feel too tall when we all stand up. I wish I hadn’t worn low-heeled boots. There’s a sea of white and balding heads, and then me — looming over everyone, awkwardly clasping my hands and murmuring along when I can.
The kids are loving it. They regularly go to my mom’s church with her, and our son supposedly wants to be an altar server someday.
They happily follow the crowd of littles downstairs to colour during the gospel and homily, and come back in time for communion (which they desperately can’t wait to be old enough to receive).
We’re back at church because our son is seven.
Seven is the new age for the sacrament of penance and reconciliation — which was called “first confession” when I was a kid, and you did it when you were 10 — as well as first holy communion.
We have, admittedly, been slack Catholics over the years. But both kids are baptized, and I felt compelled to see our son through these next few milestones.
I can’t even explain the compulsion, other than it’s been instilled in me that THIS IS WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE SEVEN …
Is it Catholic guilt, maybe? That my husband and I both went through all of these same Catholic milestones, up to and including Confirmation in Grade 9? The fact that if you don’t do it when you’re seven, it’s trickier to do later on? I have no idea.
I registered, I bought the workbook, and I dutifully take him to Catechism — even that has a different name, now it’s “Family Formation” and there is homework. We practice the “Our Father” every night, and now even our daughter can recite the whole thing. I’m checking all of the boxes on the outside, but on the inside I’m uneasy.
I pray every night, and always have — first with the kids, and then later in the evening when I go sleep.
Nothing about our church attendance feels comfortable for me. It might look traditional, but a lot has changed since I was a teenager — the last time I attended mass regularly, every Saturday at 4 p.m.
The words are different here and there — enough to keep messing me up. I used to feel triumphant that I could recite the Apostles’ Creed, and now it’s like trying to sing along to a well-known song where they added a bunch of words. Somewhere along the way, the response to “Peace be with you” changed from “And also with you” to “And with your spirit.” I keep forgetting it, and my cheeks flush.
Am I a bad Catholic because I’m walking through those doors with a heaviness that shouldn’t be there? Am I a good Catholic for making sure my child is “up to date” on his Sacraments, and never misses a Catechism class?
I’m certainly a lapsed Catholic — or am I no longer a Catholic at all? Maybe I really was excommunicated years ago, for sleeping in on Easter Sunday instead of receiving Communion in pantyhose and a knee-length dress.
The point is that I’m showing up, I suppose. I may be going through the motions, but at least my butt is in a pew — not home in bed, or under a blanket watching Netflix with the kids.
Or maybe we’ll get through the First Communion and stop going. Again.