I’m the last in a long line of Catholics. Both parents were Catholic school products, from different paths: my mother, from a traditional Irish-Catholic family, my father a Hawaiian-born Filipino, adopted by New York Italians.
They were forced to learn about the baby Jesus in an era when walking out of church wasn’t allowed. My generation was the first to grow up with a post-religious option, which I exercised in fairly dramatic fashion, getting thrown out of CCD as a pre-teen (that’s Catholic education to the lucky uninitiated). I made it to confession but not confirmation. For a long time, the only thing I really ever knew about Easter was it was the subject of my father’s best joke.
The Pope dies, so the Cardinals invite candidates to Rome for a religion test. They ask three priests — in my father’s telling I think each was from a different country, giving him a chance to pull out Irish, Italian, and Polish accents — to answer one question, “What’s Easter?”
Father Patrick the Irishman knows this one! He nods and says, “Easter, that’s the one where the family sits around a tree opening presents…” The Cardinals, furious, toss him out of Rome. Father Luigi describes a big cookout, fireworks, and everyone waving the Stars and Stripes. Gone! The Cardinals are down to their last candidate, Father Jakub the Pole.
“Easter,” Jakub begins. “That’s the day Christ dies on the cross, taking on all the sins of the world.” The Cardinals are thrilled. What next? “He loved all the world so much, he sacrificed his own life, so that we all may live forever…” Perfect! Then what? “They put him in a cave, where he stays for three days.” Yes, yes, then? “They roll away the stone…” And?
“And if he sees his shadow, he goes back inside, and it’s six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, winter ends early…”
I’m still no Catholic, but as my beautiful little children run around the house this morning, I don’t feel quite so sarcastic about it all. Family and love, at least, really are forever. Grandpa is coming in a few hours. Maybe he’ll tell the boys a joke.
Happy Easter, everyone. Or whatever. Thank you for everything, and may you all find something to smile about, today and every other day.