February 03, 2006

Not a member

Death in a building where I know some people. A devoutly Catholic man. The family arranged a funeral mass at home. Two priests preside over a gathering of friends and family. Quiet words, some tears and hugs. Then, nearing the end of the mass, the priests ask those gathered to come forward to accept communion.

Two voices ring out from the back, almost in chorus. "Only Catholics! Communion only for Catholics!"

And I think, not for the first time, give me my agnosticism.

Some time later, another death in the same building. A Hindu lady, affectionate sort who always had time for the kids. She lies in her flat for most of a morning, then when the priest arrives, she is carried downstairs to wait for the vehicle that will take her to the crematorium. Large group of family and friends, again quiet words, some tears and hugs.

The vehicle arrives. The priest directs four or five men to pick up the lady on her stretcher. Among them is someone with a Catholic name, also resident in the building and fond of the lady, clearly the youngest and fittest of the little group.

Another building resident waves him, and only him, away. "Don't pick it up," he says brusquely. "Let the others do it."

And I think again, give me my agnosticism.

8 comments:

Anirudh said...

I agree with you on this but this need not have been written. Anyway...

Neela said...

yes, i agree with you on the catholic communion thing. I actually told my friend to receive communion when she came with me to church in a little cal village. of course after that our priest said 'verma?" how is that a catholic name and we had to scramble home quickly...

n!

Helmi said...

Dilip,

Your latest post ( I read all the others too) made me feel more than sad tonight, but it drives the valuable lesson home that the world unfortunately holds two classes of people: intelligent people without religion, and religious people without sensitivity and intelligence.

tejal said...

Nice post....
Reminds me of a something a Darwinian friend of mine told me a few days back...
"Dont mix faith and religion... faith is an emotional support system" she said, "and religion has always been a political institution introduced and propogated to subjugate the weaker sections of society...so religion should be seen as just that... a political system and nothing more".
-tejal

Anonymous said...

Why is this such a big issue? Why does a non catholic feel rejected when the communion is deemed for catholics only? Why do catholics feel rejected when a similar thing happens to them.

The rules of religion are man made and are made for the purpose of being followed. Would we question rules of society in a simialr fashion? Do we say... give me my jungle law when we disagree with it? I am not sure what the issue really is. Catholics dont stop anybody from entering a church and hindus dont stop people from entering most temples.... so then why this obsession to eat the forbidden fruit. Cant we just live with the rules laid down or is it another attempt to be a non-conformist?

-Frank.

m. said...

wow. what a stinker. i guess when we institutionalise spirituality into a religion things end up like that.

forget asking for respect from another religion, as a hindu, i find all our religious heads to be absolutely subhuman misogynistic specimens. theyve made so many of our rites so patriarchal - dont ever go see the rites performed for a hindu woman who has died after her husband.

religion rarely respects personhood.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Helmi, in fairness I should say I know enough people who are religious as well as sensitive and intelligent; and enough people who are without religion and are intolerant bozos.

Neela, how did the priest know her name was "Verma"?

Anonymous, I'm not saying everyone has to follow a "jungle law", or in this case agnosticism. I'm not saying the non-Catholics should insist on communion, or the non-Hindu should insist on picking up the stretcher. I'm saying, when I see these things, agnosticism makes even more sense for me.

Ani, sorry I wrote something that need not have been written. But why that cryptic thought?

Neela said...

because he wanted to meet these two eager young women after mass and as is common in any conversation in around 17 seconds had elicited the info that her name was something verma.. we didnt hv the presence of mind to think of a story (plus it seemed sinful after our religion so shortly earlier on display) and we didn't want to shock him- he was rather a nice man. so scoot it was. needless to say, i never did go to that church again (and they did have nice tuneless bangla hymns).

n!