Tag Archives: The Catholic Church

Diary of an English Teacher in His Penultimate Year, Redux: Kids These Days, Part Deux


Apparently, for $16.36, you can buy a tub of communion wafers from Amazon. And I know this because a student of mine came to class the other other day with a tub of communion wafers. He was passing them out. Snacks for his classmates. At first, I was just sort of dumbfounded. It was a brand new what-the-hell classroom moment, one that I admitted was a career first. In 30 years, no student has ever brought a tub of communion wafers to class. He offered me one, as he offered one to anybody in the room who was interested. I declined. Still in disbelief, I asked to look at the plastic tub: Cavanagh Altar Bread, 1 and 1/8 inches, white, made from only flour and water following historical liturgical guidelines in a gas fire oven, a thousand pieces. He bought them, I’m sure, because he could. It could have been worse. He could have pretended to be a priest, moving around the room from student to student, offering up a wafer to each tongue, speaking “the body of Christ,” to which each tongue would reply, “amen,” before taking the wafer fully into the mouth, chewing it or allowing it to dissolve before swallowing. He didn’t do that (I want to say), thank God. The boy was not Catholic. His friend knew more than he did about the tradition, what it meant, its symbolic significance, the notion of transubstantiation, maybe he even said something like, “You’re eating Jesus, man.” I just remembered my childhood. 18 years of Catholic mass every Sunday whether I wanted it or not, a ritual about which I have since decided, not. And yet, there is still a Catholic roaming around inside of my bones, my heart, and my brain, and part of me was, or knew that I should be, deeply offended. And I knew, also, that there would be students in the room who would be, and would have every right to be, deeply offended. So, the party ended shortly after it began, maybe the whole thing lasted less time than it would take a person to read this paragraph out loud, and I said, “Put them away,” and a student in the back row looked at me; she nodded in approval.

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#67: The American Atheist Endorses The Pope


He reads that the Pope
has nothing against him,
in fact, sees him as an equal,
every bit as deserving
as the most devout religionist.
He sees the Pope coming out
for those who are coming out
and for those who have been
forever out of the closet.
He sees him saying that
market capitalism has run
amok and he sees the Pope
advocate, really advocate,
for the poor–in the way that
Jesus might have done.
This is all new, every day a new
wrinkle in the Atheist’s old faith,
the one he grew up with and finally
jettisoned because he’s actually
read parts of the Bible and been
sickened at heart by the atrocities
in the Catholic history, both recent
and ancient. And then he reads
that the Pope has said that parts
of the Bible itself are full of “later
interpolations contrary to the message
of love and truth” and finally, finally
he says that women should be ordained
and that one day he hopes
a woman will be Pope.
All this good news is not enough
to make the American Atheist “believe” anything
that he found impossible to believe
before Francis started changing the world,
except maybe for this:
that coexistence is possible
and hope is possible when
religious leaders start to use their minds
and are lead by reason, reason, reason,
and not the blind, unthinking, fundamentalist dogma
and anti-intellectualism that plagues
our country and the planet and in no exaggerated
way threatens our existence.
The American Atheist endorses The Pope
and says a very enthusiastic Merry Christmas
to the new Catholic Church.

Note:  This poem was in large part inspired by an article posted on The Mighty Social Network from a WordPress blog site called Diversity Chronicle.  Following a thread in this original post, someone made the claim that the article was a hoax, and, it turns out, from the blog site’s own disclaimer, that it might indeed be a hoax.  Okay, so maybe the Pope endorsed in this poem did not say that he hoped a woman could be Pope or that the Bible contains bullshit. But my bets are that he might at some point.  And, while I feel a little bit cheated by the Diversity Chronicle people, I am somewhat in agreement with the philosophy of the Lichtenberg quote on their disclaimer page:  “I ceased in the year 1764 to believe that one can convince one’s opponents with arguments printed in books. It is not to do that, therefore, that I have taken up my pen, but merely so as to annoy them, and to bestow strength and courage on those on our own side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.” – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.  So let’s write poetry and fiction in which the Pope says women should be ordained and the Bible contains some stretchers, and maybe, through the pure force of imagination, we can make a new kind of reality.  Thoreau:  “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”


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