Thursday, October 22, 2009

'Tis the season

Last night while I was at my mom's doing my duty, she asked if I would open her mail and read it to her. She has macular degeneration and can't really see to read it anymore. So I went through a couple of bills and a bunch of junk, until I got to a big thick envelope from some sort of Catholic organization called the Followers of the Little Star or something like that - the older my mom gets the more Catholic she becomes, so I imagine she gets this kind of stuff all the time (major religions don't care how little your income is). The envelope said "A Gift for You Inside!" so of course I was drawn to it. I open it up, and there are a stack of blank Christmas cards with envelopes, and a letter from someone called Father Bob. Apparently Father Bob runs this getup. I read one of the cards. And then it hit me.

For years I, like my siblings I'm sure, have been receiving similar cards from our mother for Christmas and birthdays. Mass cards. In this particular instance, the card has a nice verse on it and then says that a novena of masses will be said on the receiver's behalf for five days by the Carmelite nuns. They're not a bad thing to get, who couldn't use a novena from the order of the Carmelites? Can't hurt, right?

I read the accompanying literature, signed by Father Bob himself, that had a donation card attached to it. It said the usual religious-charity-fundraising stuff - take these as our gift to you, but if you choose to give, your donation of $8 will feed an entire village for 6 months. In theory my mom pretty much had her Christmas shopping taken care of by October 21st without spending a dime. I asked her if she donated to this Father Bob and she said "If I use the cards I send them money."

I thought about this for a minute. So I get a mass card that says all these Carmelites are praying for me. But how do they know who I am? My mom COULD just mail the cards out and never send Father Bob a nickel, and I'd be walking around, stepping into intersections, smoking in bed, chewing on foil, all safe in the belief that an entire order of nuns have my back. When in fact they have no idea who I am, let alone what name to tell God in the midst of all this praying. I asked for an explanation. She told me, "They know who you are, you have to give them the names of the people you want masses said for on the donation card" (is NOTHING free in this life?). I flipped the donation card over and sure enough, it had room for you to write down the names of those you intended to send the cards to, along with a bonus line for any particular special intentions you might want included. The donation card looked suspiciously similar to the GM Card visa bill I had only recently read to her, so I thought about it a little bit more.

"So, Mom, do you see this little microencoding on the bottom of the, er, donation card?" She did (well, she didn't, I mean, she probably was just going along with me, but then again, there are theories out there that she sees just as fine as you and me). I continued, "So you know then when you send stuff like this in with a check, this little microencoding thing is read by a computer, right? In fact, nobody ever actually looks at this card unless your donation is written on an odd-sized check or isn't there at all.. kind of like your visa bill." She nodded her head, kind of understanding. My mom was born in 1927 so I'm pretty sure she isn't familiar with the lockbox process. "So I guess what I'm saying is, if you write down my name and send in $8, nobody is going to know my name is on that card. They're going to take your $8 and toss the card, and all this talk about the Carmelites saying prayers for
me is just a bunch of hogwash." "Nooo, they wouldn't do that, they're nuns!" "Are they? Really? Is 'Father Bob' really even a priest?"

(Which brings up another thought - what about all the other 82 year old Catholic women out there receiving these cards and mailing them out, but with no intention of sending in a donation? I mean, at least my mom THOUGHT the nuns would be made aware of me and my need for constant prayer. What do you call the kind of sin where somebody mails these things out under completely false pretenses? All these people the Carmelites will never know, thinking they're being prayed for. No wonder there are so many crackheads and crime sprees.)

In the end she didn't really believe me, will probably believe Father Bob, and I am sure I will get one of these for Christmas. But you can bet one thing - I will no longer live my life with wild reckless abandon, secure in the knowledge that the Carmelites are spiritually covering my ass. Looking back over the years, I wonder how I ever came out alive. I always just thought it was because of the nuns.


At 3:29 PM, October 22, 2009, Blogger Marita said...

Being catholic, I've seen many of these things at home as well. I just have to believe it's all about the good intentions of your mother, not the money and what they do on their end. That part is out of your Mom's hands. Go ahead, live wild.

At 10:37 PM, October 22, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hats off to you, J. i loved reading this had me smiling the whole time!

This real life stuff is certainly what comedians thrive on!!

God bless you and have you hugged a nun today?!!



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