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Geography-Based Catholicism

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My pal that died in February and I often teased each other how Catholicism was different here than up North.  She refused to believe insisting ‘Catholic’ means universal.  On one hand she was correct.

I could walk into a mass in Tagalog, or any language I don’t know, and place exactly where we are in the mass.  It has a cadence and a choreography that just by the sound and if standing, sitting or kneeling I know at what point we are.

On the other hand, Mexican Catholicism is totally different than up North.  Of course there is obvious that I’ve written about frequently.  Faith here is more tactile, ritualistic and feminine and those remain the overall distinct and different themes, but there is much more.

Obviously more events in Jesus’, Mary’s and Joseph’s lives are celebrated here, not to mention the plethora of saints (Other than Patrick and Valentine, when did you last celebrate a saint in the North?)

In my lifetime Catholicism in the North has slowly crept (does the Church do anything fast?) towards Protestantism.  Mary, herself, has become more of just a nativity figure than she’ll ever only be here.

Probably the biggest change in focus towards Protestantism is having a personal relationship with Jesus.  Mexicans today, like the nuns of my childhood, would call that hogwash!

It was drilled into us as wee ones God was busy.  He hardly had time for our trivial concerns, that’s why one went to his mother (everyone still knows Mexican men do what their mothers tell them to).  If not her, go chat up some saint, particularly one whose specialty was your concern (like St. Anthony and lost things).  Lastly, there was always your guardian angel whose sole purpose was to help you out then guide you into Heaven.

We were even told to make room in our desk seats for our guardian angels.  Patty True, the cutest 2nd grader ever, made so much room for her zaftig angel she fell out of her seat!

I’ve written about the difference in clergy here and in the North, mainly in terms of education.  Another difference that astounds me is how priests here have assets.  Up North, a parish priest is like a corporate CEO, he/she/Hershey has control of the assets but not actual ownership.  All assets one had when becoming clergy went to the Church as does everything when clergy dies.

That’s why clergy has to remain single, unlike the apostles.  No pesky estate issues on what belonged to the Church and what belonged to the clergy or their heirs.

Here a niece can inherit their uncle/priest’s homes or cars.  I was gobsmacked.  Even former queens/future nuns and saints were known not to take their final vows so as not to give away their fiduciary control.

I am also confused by the clergy’s lack of planning here.  I totally get the concept of God’s will but, to me, it is equal parts giving one the ability to make decisions today that impact tomorrow and trusting in God for the future.

Not being a 401K society Mexican nuns don’t plan on a future devoid of Brides of Christ. Mother Superiors are fully cognizant of the fact young woman of today don’t want to take a vow of poverty and work 24/7.

In the North, when a cloistered community realizes all 15 members are over 70 and no one has joined since the 1970s, it’s time to plan.  Often they’ll sell their property with former nun cells to be divided into condos in exchange for an area set aside for the remaining Brides of Christ to live out their days on this plane.

Adapt or die applies to all.

The Oratorio order lost one third of their order with the virus and none of the 6 remaining are younger than I and I don’t see any lines of young lad anxious to join.  It’s the most popular and active church in town hosting (pun intended) many of the events we take for granted.  What will happen one day soon?

Obviously one hopes the Church makes married, gay, female and even binary folks clergy if only to stay alive but we’ll see.  Or we won’t.  Faith constantly morphs and changes.

Here the sacraments are more valued than up North.  Recently I was a godfather flummoxed to find my Baptismal Certificate was considered too old to be considered legitimate.  Heck, I’m that old and who would photoshop up a baptismal certificate?  There is no apparent upside to being Catholic now.

On the funny side, I enjoy being in the Parroquia on Christmas Eve when the priest makes painfully clear if you didn’t go to confession right before mass you can’t receive communion.  Foreigners make a mass exit (again, pun intended) as in Northern Catholicism I don’t think I know a soul that ever went to confession once out of school and you weren’t forced to.

Perhaps the biggest shock to me was learning here Catholics believe we all go to Hell for at least some time to repent.  In fact, those three days Jesus was gone before resurrecting on Easter he spent in Hell.

What the deuce?  If Jesus needed three days in Hell to repent for his sins Lord only knows (yes, pun) how long you and I will be there!

by Joseph Toone

San Miguel Times

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