Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Holy Water

An old man on the funicolare centrale smelled like sauerkraut, and since no one eats sauerkraut in Naples, I fear the source of the odor. Still made me want to have a hot dog.

A young man in the Villa Floridiana was wearing a t-shirt that said, "Gigolo Latino. 500 $. First night free."

I went to my neighbor's baby's baptism on Sunday. It was my first baptism and it was fascinating. Many things did not meet my expectations. I expected:

1. To see the baby dunked into the little birdbath. Instead, she was shpritzed. I missed that, too, since the parents and godparents were blocking the view.

2. To see the baby in a long white baptism gown. She was decked out in a cute little summer number. Later the priest draped a white smock over her, representing purity, I think.

3. To see the napoletani dressed to the nines. It was actually a very casual affair. My neighbor and her mom looked smashing though! Great necklace, C.!

What I didn't expect was:

1. A live guitarist and hymns sung with accompanying hand gestures, like the Macarena. It had a real hippie California flavor, like being in a Berkeley reform synagogue but with Jesus.

2. Better informed children. This was the children's mass (thus the Electric Slide versions of the songs), so the priest spent some time addressing the kids in the front rows. He asked them all sorts of questions, leading questions, and they got them all wrong. I remember one question, "What do these babies become after they are baptized?" One eager ragazzino said, "Christians!" The priest shook his head and said, "Well, yes they are Christians, but no. They become part of Christ." I didn't know that after a Catholic baptism the baptee becomes a piece of flesh and blood Jesus. I love that. Transfiguration? Or does that just apply to the host and the wine?

I hope I am not sounding sarcastic. It was so nice and I felt so honored to be there. It's always a little funky for a Jew being in church, particularly at a mass. Like the time I went to a Catholic wedding in St. Paul, Minnesota, and when it was time to take communion, I was the ONLY person left twiddling her thumbs in the pews. Talk about pariah, Ms. Arendt! Or like when a friend and I got into a fit of giggles in St. Peter's after she walked in and said, "Wow! That's one big chuppah!"

It was great being in the back of the church because I got to hang out with the altar kids (boys and girls!). They were all giggly and fidgetty. I was afraid they were going to drop the host. The didn't. An Italian-American friend who was recently visiting Naples told me about when he was an altar boy back in New Jersey. He was the shortest, so he had to lead the line up to the counter, no that's not it, where are my English words, dais, no, crap, anyway, he led the boys up to where the priest stands, but was blocked by an overweight choir girl. He tried to go around the other side, but it too was blocked. So, he led the line of boys out the door, around the church, and back in another entrance. Through the snow. Their white robes were drenched and Sister Angelina (was that her name?) mouthed to the mortified 8-year-old, "Where were you?"

At the St. Paul wedding, the host-bearer tripped on the carpet, sending the host flying. An altar boy, who was standing near the priest did an amazing dive off the platform, no that's not the word, and caught it. I wonder if the 2-second rule applies to host that touches the floor.

So, my neighbor's gorgeous little baby is washed free of original sin. I had told The Husband when La Bimba was born that if it was important to him, we could baptize her. After having been to a baptism, however, I realize I could never have gone through with it. I am very sensitive to rites and rituals and the holy, whether or not they are my rites, rituals, holy molies. I would never have been able to let the believers believe and pretend it didn't matter, didn't count.

Reading Alice Steinbach's "Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman." Steinbach is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, formerly of the Baltimore sun, who took about a year off to travel, choosing Paris, London, Oxford, and various places in Italy. I am enjoying the book, though her tone is a little marmy for me and her awareness of clothes and the various shades they come in annoying. Annoying because I am wearing the same clothes I wore in high school? Perhaps.

Ahhhhhh, it feels good to be back. It was difficult typing without my J and K keys. My fingers are back to doing the walking and talking.


sognatrice said...

I don't have anything insightful to say other than I really enjoyed this post; your entries always ring true because, at least to me, there's always a bit of sarcasm in every life experience--otherwise what fun would this whole thing be?

Glad you're typing again :)

KC said...

I once heard that in the past if a consecrated host landed on a carpet, that portion of the carpet was cut out and burned. It may be a Catholic urban legend, though.

That thing about becoming a part of Christ sounds weird to me, and I'm a Catholic. I also had no idea that there were children's masses and guitar players in churches here. I guess not all Italian parishes are still stuck in the 1950s. (Mine is.)

G said...

I think I'm going to have to start a special link to blogs on my will be called "Sisters of The Tri-State". You definately belong on that list of links.

I love your posts...they make me feel like we're just shootin' the shit over a latte.

Keep it up.