Anne Notations

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter sans sacraments

Easter Day: Nature waves her spring flag of white, blue, and chartreuse.

For the first time in at least 20 years, I had an entirely secular Easter weekend and Holy Week. In 1991, we brought our newly adopted children to Holy Name Church on the East Side of Providence for the early Easter Mass. We weren't officially Catholics yet. The following year we went to Beneficent Congregational in downtown Providence. That fall we made the big decision, had the children baptized Catholic in Brown's chapel by our friend Fr. Howard O'Shea, and became regular churchgoers at St. Sebastian's, the Providence parish we still consider home.

Holy Week was something I anticipated with longing and dread: longing for the ancient rituals and the Passion; dread of the wild sorrow I felt after we said the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!" – Jesus's agonized cry from the cross echoed down the centuries and hurt my heart.

This year I have forsaken it all. I don't know why. I missed the build-up from Palm Sunday to Holy Thursday, the inexorable march of the narrative to betrayal and torture, the stricken silence of Friday and Saturday followed by the Easter vigil and its jubilant conclusion. Our former pastor Father Randall had us all shout with joy: "We are Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song!" Amen!

We live a half-hour's drive from St. Sebastian's now, so I rarely make it there anymore. Yet I don't want to attend another church. Our local Catholic church here in Oakland Beach is rich with community spirit, but the choir, alas, makes my teeth hurt and my head ache. Music is a big deal for me and I am too dismayed by the earnest volunteer singers to tough it out. The spirit (mine) is willing, but the flesh is shamefully elitist.

Other changes have undercut my motto that one must practice a faith to "get" it. My husband, disgusted by pedophile clergy and the complicity of the Catholic hierarchy, has left the faith entirely – ironic, since his call back to the Church was what put us all in Catholic pews 20 years ago. The kids, like most college students and 20-somethings, are either agnostic or lazy when it comes to faith these days, a phase I understand well. The Church makes it hard, sometimes, for me to be loyal; Bishop, please, run the Diocese as you wish but keep your church laws out of the State House.

I'm apparently still angry about the changes I neither wished for nor could influence over the past year, and that is poisoning my spiritual inclination, feeding my inner cynic and skeptic.

So: No church this Holy Week, not even today, Easter itself. I miss it in the abstract way I miss young love: wistful for those feelings while accepting that I may never experience them again. In my mind I hear a Biblical exhortation: Pray without ceasing.

On the secular side, this weekend we had fun with eggs and chocolates. Caroline came over Saturday morning for the annual egg-dyeing fun. She loved doing two-tone eggs after Kevin showed her how. We read some children's Easter books about bunnies, ducks, and chicks. Michael presented Caroline with a sweet, tiny Easter cake in the shape of an egg.

Today, Easter Sunday, for the second week in a row Michael and I headed out just before noon with our cameras and took photographs along the shore here. This is when I experienced my own personal "Easter," sharing an activity we enjoy with my husband. Saturdays tend to be rushed as he tries to catch up on local errands and household finances. But these photographic rambles are relaxed, un-fraught with money tensions, a reminder that we can still have fun with one another. We bring Yogi with us; he is such a good dog on the walks, sticking close by us, helping explore the shallows as the waves lap the shores, getting down next to Michael's lens to see what's going on.

A promise of spring greenery erupts on a brisk day.

For now, good night from spiritual limbo.


  • It’s wonderful that you and Michael have discovered a hobby that you both enjoy. Keep the pictures coming.
    Before my mother's death (2 years ago tomorrow), hubby and I spent our “church time” at the nursing home with her. I felt more like I was doing something more productive and valuable. Strangely, I sensed that God wanted me there with her more than sitting in a church pew. Since her death (and my job loss) I have had no desire to return to church. We talk about attending Mass but have not made any attempts. My life is still disrupted from my job loss; still grieving the pain and loss along with the disbelief that my situation turned out the way it did. Why DO bad things happen to good people…

    By Blogger r_weeks, at Mon Apr 25, 10:51:00 PM EDT  

  • Last Easter my son, Alex and I attended services at the AFA. A big mistake, I felt.

    This year we elected to stay home. A good decision, I thought.

    I read somewhere "my own mind is my own Church" and that's how it's going to be from now on for me otherwise I'll lose all faith.

    Loved the pictures.

    By Blogger Have Myelin?, at Sun May 01, 07:19:00 PM EDT  

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