AND THEN THERE WAS THE TIME ...
BUT I'M JEWISH!
“I can’t believe I’m doin’ this. ... I can’t believe I’m doin’ this,” I whispered to Lynn as we walked side-by-side down the aisle of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Canton, Ohio, during mass (no, we weren’t getting married). What we were doing was obliging an usher’s request that the two of us deliver the Holy Communion – unleavened bread and wine – down the aisle and hand it to the priest, a religious rite at a Catholic service in which the priest subsequently offers small portions of each to members of the congregation, who gather by row in front of him. To Catholics, the bread (sometimes wafers) represents the body of Jesus Christ, the wine the blood of Christ.
During our two-year, long-distance relationship, I would accompany Lynn to church during our visits. At first, watching a religious worship other than my own – Judaism – was intriguing. After awhile, though, I began to feel awkward.
I never felt more ill at ease than on this particular Sunday morning in late September 1991, toward the end of one of Lynn’s weekend visits from Wisconsin. The service had already begun when we arrived. Almost every one of what seemed like a zillion seats was filled, so we sat in two near the back, on the aisle. A few moments later, a gentleman approached us as if we knew just what he wanted. Well, one of us did, and it wasn’t me. As Lynn rose from her seat, I offered her a worrisome look. Anxiety was running through my veins. Whattya doin’?
“Just follow my lead,” she whispered.
With butterflies beckoning my stomach, the usher handed me two plates full of thin, round bread pieces and Lynn two pitchers of wine. When he signaled, off we were. The priest looked a million miles away. With organ music blaring in the background, a feeling of shame swept over me like a tidal wave. I’m Jewish! With my heart beating rapidly and my hands shaking, my share of the communion nearly fell to the floor. On top of that, I feared there was bound to be someone in the congregation who recognized me in that the church was only a hop, skip, and a jump from where I lived. As we approached our destiny – the front of the aisle – I reluctantly smiled at the priest. I’m Jewish! After we handed him the bread and wine, he shook our hands and back to our seats we went.
Who would’ve thought back on May 3, 1980, as I was reading the Torah on my Bar Mitzvah day – only a few miles from my locale on this particular morning – that 11 years later I’d be carrying what represented the body of Jesus Christ down the aisle of a Catholic church during mass?
Moral of the story: Don’t sit by the aisle.