Why do I find myself wanting to make my Catholic posts private? I think it’s because I lack what some Catholics might consider the necessary reverence towards religion in general and Catholicism in general. And yet that’s not really true, either. I am both reverent and irreverent. I revere the mystery that is life, that is Obadiah in flight, that is Bridgey envisioned before she came into my life, that is the light in my mother’s head. I revere the beauty in rituals, the grace of the Eucharist, or the power of the chanting at dawn in Chinese Buddhist temples. But I don’t revere dogma or judgment. I almost walked out of RCIA forever when a pompous young man gave us a fifth grade sex education lesson and told us adults that reverencing life means being anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, anti-woman’s rights, anti-birth control. It was the only talk during the 18 months of my RCIA experience in which someone tried to tell us what to think, rather than presenting the church’s position and then inviting a discussion in which dissent was welcomed. He was new, I was told later. He’d never spoken before, and had volunteered when the usual facilitator couldn’t make it. He wouldn’t be invited back, my sponsor told me. I wasn’t the only one who’d been upset.
In a sense, I am anti-abortion. I couldn’t imagine having an abortion, and it pains me when Zeke tells me that her friend has already, at the age of 15, had four. But I would never deny Sarah or any woman the right to choose. If I were a doctor, I probably wouldn’t perform an abortion, but I’d never judge doctors who choose to do so. And I believe in the right to be taken off life-support, to death with dignity, to choice. None of these things are incompatible with a reverence for life. Still, I might not seem the natural choice for a lector. Certainly the head lector didn’t think so last year, during the mystagogy portion of the RCIA experience, when we were asked in what way we might serve the church, and were given many options, one of which was lector, or reader, or … here it comes … Minister of the Word.
“I like reading,” I said. “Maybe I could do that.”
The woman in charge of lectors lifted her head. “You?” she asked, and I could swear she wrinkled her nose a bit. It’s true I’m the one who always found every way possible to compare Catholicism to Buddhism, and who eventually chose Catholicism because the Dalai Lama suggested it was best to stick to one’s heritage (I’m simplifying, you understand!). I’m the one who walked out on the man who insisted that “Go forth and be fruitful” meant that anyone who would ever think about not having 14 kids was a sinner. I’m the one with the atheist father and the Buddhist mother, the one who kept saying, the whole time, “Well, I’m probably not going to come back.”
So when I said, rather flippantly, “I can read. How hard can it be?” the Woman in Charge of Lectors bridled.
“You do understand,” she said, “that you are not just reading when you Proclaim the Word?”
Right. I forgot. I’m Proclaiming.
“But reading’s part of it, right?” I said.
“It’s far more than reading. Not just anyone can be a lector. You need to be Trained. And you need to Proclaim. It’s a Serious Duty, an Honor, and must be treated with the Reverence it deserves.”
There’s that reverence thing again. I’ve never been particularly reverent when it comes to rules, to behaving right.
“I can try,” I said. The WiCoL frowned.
“We’ll see,” she said, ominously.