Your rights and responsibilities start early on when you are a Christian. Your parents are overjoyed welcoming you, their first-born son or daughter to the world. As an introduction into a society, a few months after your debut, you get gently splashed with water, initiating your contract to follow Jesus Christ every step of the way. Of course, most of us that underwent that major first step remember it like it was yesterday. Those who don’t, shame on you!
|Cristo Redentor, one of the most famous Catholic monuments in the New World|
When I was growing up, my mother dutifully fulfilled her role as a good Catholic mother. Every Sunday, rain or shine, she would take her two boys along to attend mass ensuring they could eventually make their way up the holy sacraments of first communion and confirmation. These were a must in Latin America where Catholics were a dominant majority over any other religious denomination. Protestant and Orthodox faiths were almost considered as a cult or sect by most. She did quiz us on occasion to find out if we were paying attention as to what we liked best from the day’s service, but my brother and I mostly drew blanks.
As a young lad, I must admit it was tough going to church. Weekends were my time off from school and an ideal time to watch cartoons or strategize with my G.I. Joes. When you are a little squirt, your attention span seems rather limited and it is hard to read between the lines in what is told through readings and sermons. We are told that there is a deeper meaning to the scriptures but I couldn’t seem to get passed how uncomfortable the pews were. As a consequence, Brian and I got in trouble a few times due to skipping out to play soccer with neighbourhood children after communion, as we were not allowed to partake in the body of Christ.
My father hardly ever made it to mass and I wondered why was he allowed to play hooky. I could picture him sitting in a lazy boy chair (which we didn’t have) eating pizza and watching cartoons while the three of us were away getting our praying on. After much due diligence work, I realized that as a member of the United Church of Canada, he did not have a parish he could attend in a Catholic-dominant society. I knew then that I needed to find my own excuse and I was certain my father would back me up. He probably needed me to hang around to watch cartoons with him all morning. After all, who would know more about cartoons than a 7 year-old kid?
|Church of Santo Toribio, Las Condes, Chile|
Eventually, I concocted a brilliant scheme to reconquer my Sundays. When it was time for our regular outing, my mother and father came to see what was taking me so long to get ready. I proudly rejected the invitation, sharing that I was no longer going to church because I was a Muslim. I was not prepared for the cunning response that ensued with my parents demonstrating a truly united front when they said: “Well, Muslims go to their church too. It’s called a mosque.” I sharply replied, “Not in Chile!” but no dice. To sum it up, I lost another battle and continued attending regular Sunday mass.