Day of the Dead graphic from Arizona Republic
Ironically, sitting here yesterday typing and pontificating (root word: pontiff, haha) nearly made me late for All Saints Day Mass. And so there I go, scurrying in during the homily, duly splashing myself with holy water while wondering (as I always do) why the Mexicans and Vietnamese are always sitting in the back. You should go up front! You are just as entitled to be here as the white people! Alas, I don't know any language but English, so I can't say this to them. I usually express this sentiment simply by sitting with them, smiling at their babies and sharing tissues when one spits up. They are probably thinking, poor confused old hippie, doesn't know where the white people sit.
The reading is from spooky old Revelations 7, and reminds us:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen."I thought about those who have had the greatest tribulations, those who have endured war, famine, illness and hardship; those who have been abandoned. I was suddenly overwhelmed, humbled and honored to be in the presence of the saints.
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Old joke: The most dangerous place in the world to be is in a Catholic parish parking lot after Mass; the second most dangerous place would be the closest bakery. (I guess that's a dated joke now, and it should be re-written to say, the closest Starbucks.) I hate gridlock of any kind, so I therefore hang back and usually wait until the place clears out, and pay close attention to details... for instance, my priest is picky about his nomenclature and the song sheet informs us that today is THE SOLEMNITY of All Saints. So is it still THE FEAST of All Saints? What, one wonders, is the difference between Solemnity and Feast?
The calendar is a traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year on the level of days by associating each day with one or more saints, and referring to the day as that saint's feast day. The system arose from the very early Christian custom of annual commemoration of martyrs on the dates of their deaths (Dies Mortis, day of death, opposite of Dies Natalis). As the number of recognized saints increased during Late Antiquity and roughly the first half of the Middle Ages, eventually every day of the year had at least one saint who was commemorated on that date.The day a child was born determined who their patron saint was, hence, the derivation of "birthday."
"Various feast days will be "ranked" with various levels of importance. In the Roman Catholic Church, from most to least importance, these are solemnities, feasts, memorials, and optional memorials. In the Church of England, they are Principal Feasts and Principal Holy Days, Festivals, Lesser Festivals, and Commemorations.You could go crazy trying to keep it all straight, and Lord Knows, I once tried mighty hard.
I am now lucky to make it to the Majors.
Some years ago, I thought donating blood at Halloween was a fun idea, especially since they also passed out cute Vampire T-shirts to all participants (blood, vampires, Halloween, get it??). At some point, this habit morphed (like the holiday itself?) into giving blood for All Saints Day instead, and I made it part of my spiritual repetition. Blood was shed on my account, I guess I can shed a little bit in return.
And so, I made my way to the local Bloodmobile, which really does bother me. I don't like giving blood in a VEHICLE. I know, it's a fancy schmancy vehicle and everything, but it is still a VEHICLE that could, you know, MOVE at any moment. The humongous electrical generator makes all manner of roaring noises, and as my blood pumps out of my arm, I am left wondering: Did they remember to put the emergency brake on?
First, the Blood Connection lady takes me into a little cubicle to ask me personal sexual questions, extending all the way back to 1977 (!). My favorite of these is: Have you had sex with a man who has had sex with another man?
And I really want to answer: Have you ever asked a man that question, before you have sex with him? "Oh, hey, by the way, have you had sex with another man?" Right.
In other words, the proper and true answer: How the hell am I supposed to know? But if you say that, expressing doubts, they will refuse you and bounce you out. So, everyone just replies in the heterosexist manner in which you are expected to answer: No.
Even though the battery of sexual questions is harrowing, and they add a few more bizarre twists and turns every year or so (I have to admit, I enjoy sniffing "I'm a VEGETARIAN!" to all of their Mad Cow Disease questions), the thoroughly bored demeanor of the interrogator always gets me through. She doesn't care; she's heard it all before, and then some.
The last question is the most interesting: Are you giving blood just so you can be tested for HIV?
Does anyone really do that?
Coming up in Day of the Dead, Part Two: Ron Paul in Greenville, with original photos!
Listening to: Howlin' Wolf - Smokestack Lightnin'