Disclaimer: This is not a commentary on beliefs. It’s not a judgement on what other people believe or don’t believe. It’s simply an accounting of my experiences.
I grew up in Covington, KY and went to Catholic school. I did not have a concept of what other church experiences were like, other than one time when I went to a vacation bible school with a neighbor. I didn’t like it. They were doing it wrong.
One thing about Catholic mass, is there are no surprises. We know what to expect. We know how to respond and we know that singing hymns is done in a funeral dirge voice. There is no laughing and no passing candy. I had to learn that last lesson a number of times. In my defense, when I was in school, we started every day with mass. I feel comfortable in saying it was a snooze fest and I don’t miss it.
Then, when I was around 10 years old, my parents went and did something bizarre.
They hooked up with a group of people calling themselves charismatic Catholics and they started having prayer meetings. Sometimes, they would gather at our house and other times we would get dragged to other people’s houses.
This was a far cry from stand up, sit down, kneel, and wait impatiently for the words ‘Mass has ended, go in peace’.
I hated the prayer meetings. I hated everything about it. They embarrassed me and quite frankly, I found the group of them completely batshit crazy.
They would get together and talk about how Jesus spoke to them and I’m not talking about speaking to them through a beautiful sunrise or the laughter of a child, I’m talking about actual words.
One woman, her name was Dee, told a story of how she woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a great battle being waged.
She said that a war between the angels and the demons was being fought in the upstairs hallway of her house.
In her hallway.
In Covington, Kentucky.
Even at age 10, I could work out the glaring problems with this. First of all, even if there really was a heavenly battle being waged, wouldn’t the beings involved in the battle find a better place to fight? Logistically, a narrow hallway in a ramshackle house in Covington, Ky would be no place for a battle. Also, she didn’t mention that anything was destroyed in her house. Maybe, they were using those foam pool floats or something, I don’t know.
As an adult, and having a better understanding of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I can see how these group meetings were like Disneyland for my father. He could make up any crazy shit he wanted and the group would nod and praise him for being so holy.
I remember hearing him tell the group how he was riding in his truck at work (he worked for the gas and electric company) and Jesus was running down the road toward him with his arms stretched out as if he were coming in for an embrace.
But this was no ordinary Jesus, his Jesus was at least 30 feet tall.
His coworker who was driving the truck couldn’t see Godzilla Jesus, the implication there is that the driver just wasn’t pious and important enough to see Jesus, but my dad could see him. And he was distraught because no matter how fast they drove, Jesus never quite made it to the truck.
What a bonanza for a narcissist who loved to make shit up and have a captive audience.
His stories invoked praise and adoration because he had obviously reached a stage of enlightenment where Jesus and angels and maybe even the tooth fairy were visiting him on a regular basis.
I can’t say this for sure, because I was very young and I don’t trust all of my memories, but I don’t think I ever bought any of it. In my memory of the holy roller past, I spent my time listening all the while wanting to point out how completely insane it all was.
I’m sure they wouldn’t have listened, though. They couldn’t have heard me over the sound of them singing songs in tongues. Yes, my parents spoke in tongues. That is a special treat for any small Catholic child.
I know that one meeting in particular, my dad spoke with the group about how ‘troubled’ I was.
By troubled, he meant I didn’t heap praise on him all the time and complained when he heaped abuse on me.
They prayed for me.
I had to stand in the middle of a room, while a fuck ton of people laid their hands on me and prayed to Jesus that the demons would leave me.
I have absolutely no questions as to why I have such a large personal space area today.
It’s funny to think about those people now, how close they were with my parents, and how wonderful they thought my father was. If they had only seen him and the way he treated his children when we were behind closed doors. Perhaps, they would have laid their hands on him to get the demons out.
Although, since the electric shock therapy didn’t do the trick, I doubt their weekly viewing of The Godspell and their made up words would have been any more effective.