My mother's mother immigrated from a Catholic part of Ireland in her teens. My mother's father was the son of two Irish-Catholic immigrants. On both sides of that half of the family, one would have to conduct a genealogical search all the way back to the Druids or something similar to find anyone in my direct line of ancestry who was not Roman Catholic. My people were probably among the first to be converted by Saint Patrick, and they were likely such a scruffy lot that Patrick had a tough time deciding whether to convert them or to drive them off the island along with the snakes that he made disappear.
My father's family on both sides is of French Canadian descent. One was born somewhere in Ontario, while the other was born in Quebec. I can never keep straight which was born where. For all the attention they pay to me, it's only a tribute to my inability to rid my mind of useless information that I even remember that both of them were born in Canada. My father was born in Massachusetss, but the first language he spoke was French. My father's side of the family traces its roots to France in the three to four generations before my grandparents came along. Exhaustive genealogical records (which we now possess because that portion of the family is now Mormon, and Mormons make it their business to know such things)indicate that our relatives as far back as can be traced on that side of the family were Roman Catholic as well.
My father's religious pedigree veered off its course temporarily when his parents converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When such a conversion takes place, the parents typically drag their children along into the conversion with them. Such was the case with my father. He went along with what he was told to do, but for the first twelve years he was deeply indoctrinated in the Catholic faith. Though he was ordained to the LDS priesthood and served a two-year mission for the Mormon church, he was, himself, never totally sold on the idea, and made it a point not to sell anyone else on it while on his mission. He may have been one of the least successful missionaries in the history of the LDS mission program if you discount the missionaries who visited brothels, abused substances, or took off on unauthorized vacations in church-owned vehicles to catch the Olympics or other such events. My father didn't break any major rules. He just made it a point not to convert anyone to a religion he wasn't sure he believed in himself.
Once my father finished the the undergraduate portion of his education, he ceased church attendance. This greatly distressed his parents. Then he met the girl of his dreams (my mom), who was Catholic. When he decided to marry her, he made the choice to return to the Roman Catholic Church, though not without a degree of cynicism where religion in general was concerned. He just felt that it would be best for the family he would eventually have if the family were to attend church together.
In my paternal grandparents' eyes, my mother became the the snake who persuaded Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. (They actually used this analogy, which, if my mom was the snake and my dad was Eve, begs all sorts of questions regarding God having created "Adam and Eve," not "Adam and Steve," but for now, we'll ignore them and stick to the topic at hand.) It was all my mother's fault as far as my grandparents were concerned, though both she and my father say she said or did nothing to encourage him to return to his original faith.
My grandparents drove, with my father in the car, to what was supposed to be a wedding reception. As the car continued to travel further and further from civilization, my father began to wonder where they were really headed. Their intended destination was actually a cabin, where several of my grandfather's priesthood-holding friends and my father's sister's husband, Mahonri, were waiting with their scriptures and consecrated oil. This was a planned intervention/ deprogramming. After more than a week, it became evident to the men and to my grandmother that they could not hold my father there against his will forever, and, even worse, they were all facing possible kidnapping charges. They finally gave in and drove my father back to Salt Lake City, where he promptly hopped on the very next train to California.
At some point in the timeline, my grandparents filed a suit against my father for the cost of his undergraduate education and for the cost of his mission. My grandparents' offer was that they would drop their suit if my father would drop my mother and return to the fold. My father's counter-offer was that, even though the suit had no merit because there was no agreement, oral or otherwise, that the payment of his college or mission exoenses was contingent upon continued membership in their church, he would be willing to forgo pressing kidnapping charges against all who participated in detaining him against his will at the cabin if the lawsuit were dropped. My father, who had already contacted the local district attorney just before leaving for California, gave my parents one week to make their decision. Less than twenty-four hours later, he heard from them that the lawsuit would be dropped. That was the last time for several years that he heard anything from them.
The only relatives on my dad'a side of the family who attended my parents' wedding were his aunt and her husband (his uncle by marriage; DUH!) from Massachusetts, who were motified that their sister and brother-in-law would stand their own son up at his wedding over religious differences. Also present was my father's youngest brother Steve, who, at the age of fourteen, defied his parents and accepted a plane ticket to Nebraska, where the wedding was held, to serve as my dad's best man.
There were various attempts to make Mormons out of all of us along the way, but, as they're not germane to the story, I'll leave them for another day. The point here is that my parents were more-or-less practicing Catholics (the "more" refers to my mom and the "less" refers to my dad) since they were married and since long before my brother and I were born.
We relocated several times in my early years. Each time we moved to a different city, we quickly located the nearest Catholic parish and began attending regularly. When I was nine, we moved to the house where we presently live. We again located the nearest Catholic Church and had been quite active participants in the parish.
Then came the hurdling accident that cost me my prom date and very nearlly cost me my leg.
I wasn't allowed to receive visitors in the hospital for most of the time I was a patient because my tibia/fibula fracture was a compound (open) one, and the risk of infection was great. I was allowed visits from the Monsignor, who brought Holy Communion to me on Sunday. With the third surgery and the subsequent application of a hard plaster cast, my leg was deemed safe enough to withstand the potential germs of visitors. I only had two more days to remain in the hospital at that point, but many friends came to visit, with quite a few bearing gifts. My friend Krista brought me a sort of hand-made gift when she visited me in the hospital on Saturday. She had taken a Dollar Tree dart board and had glued a picture of John on it. I hadn't even opened the package of darts because you can't throw darts in a hospital room.
In a seemingly unrelated matter, John's family belonged to the the same Catholic parish my family attends, where I also play the organ and piano, or at least I did when I had two hands that worked.
When it was time for me to be released from the hospital, my parents gathered the gifts, including the dartboard, and loaded them into the car as they loaded me in. When we arrived home, my father carried me inside and upstairs to my bedroom. My mother carried in the gifts that were given to me. She set them on a bench in the entryway to our home until she had time to store them in appropriate places.
The day I was released was a Sunday, and the Monsignor had been to the hospital to deliver Holy Communion to me. Soon after I got home from the hospital, the Monsignor came to give me communion. Often lay members deliver communion to parish members too ill to come to church for communion. He was mildly miffed at having just missed me and thus having to make the trip to our home, and was in a slightly foul mood as a result.
I was to receive communion from the Monsignor himself because I, the organist, was a prominent member of our church, but evidently not as prominent as was John. When the Monsignor saw the dart board with John's picture on the bench in our entryway, he refused to give me communion. My mother tried to explain to the Monsignor than it wasn't my fault, because the dart board had been a gift that I couldn't leave at the hospital, and that I had no intention of throwing darts at John's image. The Monignor wasn't so easily assuaged. He told my mother that none of my family should have communion until we repented. My mother, the devout Catholic, was yelling at a Monsignor. I didn't know this before, but sources have since told me that John's parents donate very generously to the parish and to the Monsignor's pet causes.
I always thought the money my parents donated was substantial, but they're not in any position, apparently, to match the donations of a family whose wealth comes from agriculture in this area. (Nor should they care to be. Charity or giving to one's church should never be about competition or out-giving someone else.) While I don't wish to paint all farmers and dairymen with the same brush, many farmers and dairymen in our area live extravagantly regardless of their financial situation. Bankruptcy may be right around the corner, but they continue to live as though the world really was going to end on May 21. Then they declare bankruptcy when they cannot possibly meet their balloon payments, mortgages, and other bills. Miraculously, within a few years, these families are often just as weathy as they were before.
My Uncle Ralph was telling me of a farmer we both know who owns a house that makes the comfortable home in which my family lives resemble a single tenement unit. The father drives both an expensive pickup and a Lexus. The mother drives a new Cadillac Escalade each year, and the daughter drives some sort of customized pink jeep creation with pink leopard skin-lined interior made to look just like a vehicle that Paris Hilton used to own. Yet this farmer has already successfuly filed for bankruptcy three times, and he's not yet fifty years old. Even if my parents gave 90% of their income to the Church and to other worthy causes and expected us to wear Deseret Industries clothing and subsist on Ramen noodles, they couldn't begin to keep up with the financial contributions famiies such as this family are able to make. I will say in my parents' defense, though, that whatever money they donate is actually their own money and not money that should have been paid to a creditor.
After the Monsignor left, I was moaning about having been excommunicated. My dad told me to stop being a drama queen because I wasn't excommunicated; the priest just wouldn't let me have communion. I asked him what he thought excommunication meant. He laughed and answered, "Not being allowed to take communion."
My mom said, "We're all excommunicated." If the priest doesn't come to his senses, she said, we'll find another priest.
"In the Mormon Church," my dad said, "if you're excommunicated, you're excommunicated! It doesn't matter where you go. Those records will catch up with you sooner or later even if you move to Pago Pago or Point Barrows, Alaska." He paused. "That's what I love about the Catholic Church. If you don't like what one priest says, you can always look for another one."
After that, my dad gave me a Vicodin, so I didn't really care all that much about communion or anything else.
I already blogged about this year's California prom, and I'll take on the Utah prom after I've had some sleep, but I can tell you that nothing half as exciting as my entire family being excommunicated happened at either prom this year.
Postscript: I thought Judge Alex was entirely too generoua when he awarded that girl, Jessica, I think her name was, $1,500.00 for her prom expenses.
Five hundred dollars would have been generous. That's what I paid for two proms, and I paid my share of the tickets and meals as well.