What Does the Pope Eat?

Walking up to the small shrine in the hill at Kylemore Abbey, County Galway.

I grew up in a Catholic church filled with banners of doves and peace signs draping the altar and hanging behind the choir of earnest guitarists singing folk versions of psalms. And, once, even bongo drums.

My favorite priest was Father Mike. The other priests were Father LastNames. Mike had a beard and longish hair. He was Jesus-esque. Jesus was a carnie in a play, and his disciples were nice carnie hippies.

This was working class Detroit.

Parishioners were UAW members, many were immigrants from Italy, and most everyone’s last name ended in a vowel. Ventimiglia. Bornkowski. Buscemi. Kozlowski. Lucido.

We went to public school and were threatened occasionally with Catholic school if we didn’t straighten up.

To relieve boredom at a time when you didn’t bring activities for kids to Mass, I poured through my misselette reading next week’s gospel–or The Adventures of Jesus as I thought of them. My favorite stories told of houses built on sand, or the hero saving a woman from a crazed crowd, or the magic feeding of a mountain with a few fish. The ones I that bored me started off, “Beloved…”

I didn’t like confession in a dark phone booth, but we did it as a group and that was easy. I received Confirmation–also known as the sacrament of exit. And I, too, mostly left.

I was indoctrinated, though. I knew the secret handshakes. And I knew that Jesus was love.

I got married in Church and, in the sacrament of re-entering, I had kids. We could afford the parish school and the city schools were mostly sketchy.

My son was an altar server. He wanted me to be a lay minister of communion. The choir director would see me singing and asked me to join the music ministry. I served on the school committee to help in technology, but refused Parish Council. Because I’m a really bad Catholic. If I served during Mass I’m sure that the bigger than life size crucifix would crash onto the altar and it’d be my fault.

I am a cafeteria Catholic. I take what I want and maybe need, but when the Church veers from the Jesus-of-my-youth’s message of love, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness, I leave my tray at the cash register. Even if that means I leave behind community, spirituality and faith.

I really don’t believe in God. Not some old white guy who directs our lives. Really, if you were the Maker of the Universe, would you meddle in the individual heartbreaks of the human-ants? Really?

But we meddle in each other’s lives. And we sometimes do it with love, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness. And we make God when we do that.

And that’s what I placed on my battered cafeteria tray this week as I rapturously followed Pope Francis storming my city.

And he’s right. The Pope that is. God is love. That’s it. All the rest is decoration.

So today, and tomorrow and every day, I’m gonna make me some God.


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