WordBowl Word-of-the-Day courtesy of Raul A., red carpet couturist, face of FIT, KingofBingo collaborator
I am a recovering Catholic.
Our family grew up Super Catholic (“Real Catholic”, according to my parents). Catholic School, Scriptural Rosary, Luades and Vespers — morning and evening prayers, chanted in Latin —Meatless Fridays.
My parents disavowed Vatican II, blue jeans worn to Mass, the acoustic guitar strumming parish priest exhorting through song to “bloom where you are planted.” If there was no biblical verse to support Our Father’s dictums, he had scriptural passages at the ready from other texts, the Baltimore Catechism cannon.
The Catholic Church, apparently, was not Catholic enough for Our Father.
He spoke of Lourdes, of Fatima, of reputed miracles in far-flung, impoverished places, as if to reinforce the spiritual poverty of our over-capitalized nation. Numerous references to the Fall of Rome. The End of Days nigh.
Which explains — somewhat— how I celebrated my fifteenth birthday on a flight from Toronto to Rome, drunk with a monk.
My monk — celebrating fifty years of monk-dom — chaperone for a Catholic Youth Tour, bound for two weeks in Italy. The trip a great financial sacrifice on my parent’s part, hoping to fill their teenage cheerleader daughter with the Holy Spirit, imparted by the Vatican itself.
The stewardess brought us a complimentary bottle of Blue Nun.
Our group pilgrimaged to Assisi, paid homage to the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette, a Carmelite Sleeping Beauty. Celebrated Mass in a basilica housing the Holy House of Loreto, the humble abode where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, which through divine intervention flew intact from Palestine to Rome. Met Brother Gino who reputedly suffered the Stigmata, his hands bound in rough cloth.
Stories, like those commemorated in my Map of the Land of Make Believe, complete with Happily Ever After, provided one hews to the Ten Commandments and the thousands of lesser moral commands.
Stories, institutionalized. Mythologized.
Grade school history classes in Mississippi, we reviewed the Pilgrims’ Mayflower journey and tribulations born by the first colonists, touched upon the American Revolution, dove deep into The War of Northern Aggression for many months, rushed through World War1WorldWarII the final weeks of the academic year.
The grip of story, no matter the source, spoken with enough force. No longer merely the purview of the winners, present history is written by the shrill.
As real as Al Gore creating the Internet. Sarah Palin’s Facebook status screeds.
The personal tales we hear, tell. The married or otherwise encoupled who did — really, really — meet on MatchOKCupideHarmony. Or met cute in a bar. The guy or gal who chucked it all — high-powered career, trappings of success, debauched lifestyle — for a simpler life in a small town/remote ranch/quaint village, discovered a previously untapped aptitude, manifested their authentic self, found true love.
These stories, for the listener, for the teller, goals to aspire to, windmills to tilt towards, the Best of Times, the Worst of Times. These stories, they become legend and legion, they codify and solidify, become emblems, totems, symbols.
They define Us, Them, I, You, We.
This story was (hand)written at Orient Express (west village, nyc) and edited/uploaded at the Apple store (meatpacking district, nyc) because I left my charger at home, ran out of juice.
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