Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Time I Broke My Catholic Muscle

Seeing as how Easter is almost upon us and I already posted the story about the frozen baby rabbit, the second best Easter post I can think of is the time I broke my Catholic muscles. Both of them. It was my first year in DC and I decided I was going to spend Good Friday at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (something I still do every year). Stations of the Cross start at noon and I got there a little later than I'd planned because I was too busy making eyes at my oh so cute supervisor. Well I got my punishment! At the basilica, Stations are downstairs in the crypt church which hasn't nearly the seating as the great upper church. Not nearly. So since I only got there about 10 minutes before everything started I didn't get a spot in a pew. Which meant that for the 14 Stations of the Cross I had to genuflect, then kneel on the marble floor.

I did not then, and frankly still don't now, have terribly strong quads.

Then it was confession and a move upstairs for musical reflections and the service.* Good Friday service is pretty long and it's impressive that Catholics can stay still for it all. We have an internal timer that gives a warning bell at about 55 minutes, goes off at the hour, and a minute over is like a shrieking fire alarm urging you to leave. You can tell what time it is by how fidgety everyone is. But for the two plus hours on Good Friday people are pretty good. I think it's because there's so much moving around. There's way more sit-stand-kneel-walk than there is during a regular Mass.

What did me in this particular service were the Prayers of the Faithful. During a regular Mass you hear them while standing and there are maybe seven. Which seems to be an odd number (ha!) but it's a decent median. On Good Friday at the Basilica, I kid not, there are about two dozen. And you stand while you hear them...but you have to genuflect when you give the response. Now I was already feeling a little shaky in the leg after the Stations incident so I was practically in tears after these prayers. Getting up and down took an immense effort and I had to grip the pew back in front of me to guide myself.

And that was just the Prayers of the Faithful! There was still all the regular sit-stand-kneel-walking! By the time it was Communion I had to drag myself out of a sustained kneel, shuffle to the front of the long aisle, back to the pew, and reluctantly and stiffly kneel back down.

Finally the service was over and I shuffled painfully, but thankfully downhill, to the metro. Where I proceeded to look ridiculous as I tried to negotiate the stairs into the station; luckily for once the escalators were at least working and I got to the platform with not too much effort. After I boarded the train I remained standing for the three stops even though it was practically empty and there were plenty of places to sit. I just knew that if I sat down, I was not going to be able to get back up to debark. Also thankfully my apartment wasn't too far from the metro and there were no hills or stairs involved. By the time I got home all I could do was stiffly fall onto the couch. And I stayed there the rest of that day and all of Saturday.

Saturday morning I had to call my bellydance instructor to let her know that I broke my Catholic muscles and couldn't move and therefore couldn't make it to class. Seriously my legs didn't function at all. My quads had seized and were just not cooperating. There was a beat of silence on the other end of the phone as my Jewish dance teacher absorbed that I had broken Catholic muscles...but then she told me she hoped I got better and maybe I should ice something.

My unsympathetic roommate doubled over in laughter every time I couldn't stand it (ha) any longer and had to drag myself to the bathroom. And drag myself I did. I'd roll off the couch, army crawl to the bathroom, and use the toilet and bathtub to leverage myself up. Then repeat sequence to get back to the couch.

Luckily by Sunday morning my legs eased enough that I was able to make it to Easter Mass. I did avoid kneeling during the Mass though.

So now every year that I manage to be in the country for Lent I go into training to prepare for Good Friday. This means going to church Friday night every week of Lent for Mass and Stations of the Cross. And even though I have a pew because so few people come for daily Mass, I stand in the center aisle and genuflect/kneel on the floor. This way, even if my insistence on getting to the Basilica 30-40 minutes early on Good Friday doesn't net me a pew, I'll be prepared.

*Interesting tidbit-Good Friday is the only service all year that's just a service and isn't a Mass. Know why? Please tell me because I don't know either.