Confessions of a Jew at Mass

I still feel the eyes on me during the preparation for Communion. I see that guy every week, I hear them thinking. Why doesn’t he kneel like his wife and son?

Simple. I’m not a Catholic. As a matter of fact, I’m not even a Christian. I’m a Jew.

So what am I doing at Mass, Sunday after Sunday? Also simple. My wife is a lifelong Catholic, and devout. So is my son.Mass

Long before we got married, my wife and I talked about how we would raise children if we ever got married and were fortunate enough to have them. Although my wife is not always comfortable with being direct about her emotions, in matters of faith she is a compelling example, albeit in a quiet way. I remember distinctly how she forthrightly, but respectfully, told me how important it was to her that her children be raised as Catholics. She told me about her background, her upbringing in the church, her belief. She probed my background. Could I consent to this? She made clear that she would never demand that I convert.

To me, this was a quiet thunderbolt. I recall thinking that there could be few greater acts of love than the one she had just done. That kind of conversation risks loss. It must have taken courage to work up to. For my part, I had long ago decided that throughout history, far too much strife has come about over disagreements on how to approach God. Who am I, who is anyone, to determine such a thing for anyone but himself, and perhaps his children until they reach the age of judgment?

Knowing the depth of goodness in my wife’s heart, and confident that she would keep her pledge to help instruct Joseph on the key elements of my heritage, I had no problem agreeing to her request. I have never regretted it.

My parents, as you might expect, were concerned. Disappointed, even, at first. But my wife’s confidence in her faith enabled her to keep on being her, effortlessly, quietly…and soon, my parents were won over.

At Mass, I stand when it’s appropriate. I still don’t kneel; I let my heart tell me where lines should be drawn. Of course, I don’t take Communion. I benefit from a diverse background and a good literary memory; I detect and reflect on the scriptural and liturgical intersections of Catholicism and Judaism. I separate the last century’s Ukrainian pogroms and their secular brutality from the holy bonds of faith that unite all who seek God, whatever road they choose.

And when I see the light of faith in my wife and son, I am content.♦

© 2013 Adam Barr

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3 thoughts on “Confessions of a Jew at Mass

  1. Mike says:

    This reminds me of a time when, some years ago, two lovely ladies from the Jehovah’s Witness came to my door and I decided to chat with them instead of ignoring them. After a few niceties exchanged they asked me something along the lines of “Do you think there could ever be peace on earth?”

    I thought for a moment and told them, flatly, “No.” They both looked at me quizzically, having the effect I was looking for, I then explained that as long as people continue to argue over religion and who’s God is better, there can never be a true peace. More wars have been started either between religions or because of someone else’s religion. And I told them, that as a Catholic, I realize that my religion started a lot of them.

  2. […] now you have gathered that I am Jewish. If you read this space frequently, you know that the rest of my family is Catholic, and that I attend Mass with them. I work to be tolerant of all approaches to God, and I refuse to engage in potentially damaging […]

  3. Helen Offutt says:

    I think it is awesome that you go with them even if you are not catholic; I am catholic as well and really respect you for being so accepting: I was once in a long term relationship with a Jewish man who was not so accepting of my religion even though I was very much of his and I can say that it eventually ended the relationship so Bravo on not letting that stop you!

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