Our faith is meant to be lived, day in and day out. Sometimes though, being a Catholic can be sort of, well, awkward. Have you had any of these awkward moments this month? This week? Okay, be honest, how many have you had just today?
1. Forgetting the words of the Hail Mary
It happens to even the most seasoned Rosary pray-ers. And always in public. Out loud. One minute you are leading a decade and the next you are second guessing what you saying, stumbling over the words, panicking, and then starting over. The rest of the mystery will be a sweaty, panicky experience with a sigh of relief once you reach the Glory Be…and hopefully remember it.
2. Sneezing before the Sign of Peace
You know when the sign of peace is coming. In the “choreography” of the Mass, you are standing, the priest is saying, “My peace I give to you.” Maybe there is even that attractive coed in the pew behind you and you are planning to make eye contact during the sign of peace. Maybe the Catholic alpha-pinterest-perfect mom is sitting in front and you are determined to not be intimidated. Then it happens. Out of nowhere, you SNEEZE. Right into your hands. The hands you are going to use to shake the hands of others – the others who have now SEEN you sneeze into them – in about 2.5 seconds. What do you do? Wipe them on your clothing? Gross. Then they will think you’re a slob. Frantically search for hand sanitizer in a pocket or purse? Then you’ll cause a disturbance greater than your sneeze. Glance around furtively and hope no one saw? (Spoiler: they did. They always do.) You clearly have three choices: 1) apologetically refrain from the traditional handshake, smile awkwardly instead and then try not to visibly touch anything with your dirty, sneeze contaminated hands for the rest of Mass. 2) offer the peace sign as a poor, kind of weird, and definitely even more awkward substitute, or 3) excuse yourself, go to the rest room to wash your hands and be sure to come back with them glistening clean and still slightly damp so it’s obvious to everyone you did, in fact, sanitize them. The choice is yours. God bless you.
3. Genuflecting anywhere BUT in Church
You have been waiting for this concert for months. (Or movie, game, or performance.) You got GREAT seats. You make your way down the long aisles and are about to enter your row and you all of sudden catch yourself taking a knee (the right knee) and beginning to bless yourself. What do you do? Pretend to tie your shoe? Even if it is slip on? Panic and propose to the nearest lady? Fake dropping something and fake picking “it” back up? Or just own it; finish blessing yourself, stand up tall, look at the person giving you a strange glare and just shrug and say “Catholic?” Then go enjoy the show!
4. Is he a priest?
Have you ever been out in public and you see a man dressed all in black, with a funky collar, and his whole ensemble is screaming “clergy” but you just aren’t sure? What do you do? Avoid him so you don’t have say hi and stumble over whether or not to say “Father?” Wave and squint to see if you can see a Roman collar? But then how do you know if he is a priest or if he is a seminarian? In short, if interaction is unavoidable, it is quite likely there will be a few awkward moments while you figure out if you speaking to a priest, future priest, or just a very enthusiastic black-clothes connoisseur.
5. The ‘pause’ in the confessional
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been……”
You are in the confessional. You are doing your best to be contrite, thorough, honest, and you are sincere. Maybe there is even that one thing you wrestled with having to confess. Then, just as you lay it all out there and indicate that you are done, there is a pause. A long pause. Sometimes preceded by or followed by a sharp, audible inhale. Cue the humiliation. Awkwardness now fills your confessional. Did you just shock Father? Did your sins leave him speechless? It is entirely possible that Father’s pause or loud intake of breath has absolutely nothing to do with your confession or with you. In fact, it’s quite likely. Maybe Father just remembered he forgot to turn the oven off when he heated up some food. Maybe he just had a moment where the Holy Spirit inspired him with exactly what to say and it caught him off guard. Maybe he just remembered that tomorrow is his mom’s birthday and he forgot to get a card. Perhaps he is on call for administering Last Rites to the dying and just got a call. Whatever the reason, you are now in awkwardville, hoping that whatever you confessed didn’t just shock the priest (it didn’t, they can’t be shocked, they hear it all), and realizing that you are trapped by not having received absolution yet. While personally quite awkward, try to take a deep breath, remember that you are speaking to Jesus Christ through Father and that Jesus is looking on you with great love and Mercy, and that He is so very glad you are there!
6. Bless us…oh wait
Praying before meals is a tradition that many faiths practice and it is so beautiful when friends of different Christian Traditions can all pray together before a lunch or dinner. Catholics, though, sometimes end up on autopilot. As soon as the prayer begins, you may catch yourself praying confidently, “Bless us Oh….wait….” as you realize this is a “spontaneous giving thanks” sort of prayer time, not a “Catholics have a prayer for everything” prayer time. Amen.
7. The group Memorare
It’s almost as hard as the group Hail Holy Queen… is it clemency? Mercy? And what about the St. Michael prayer? Protector? Defense? Whenever these prayers are prayed in a group they seem to start out strong and then quickly end up mumbled until everyone regroups again. ” Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I (unintelligible….kneel….sit… stand….kne-and…steel…) sinful and sorrowful…” At least we all agree on the “sinful and sorrowful part?”
8. Seeing your priest in the gym
Are they even allowed to wear gym shorts? No really, are they? Because that gets super awkward. Especially when you are a sweaty, huffing and puffing mess. We expect priests to see us through our spiritual growth and fitness regimens, but not so much our physical ones!
9. The Benediction chant
When did the words change? And where exactly is the sweetness? Is it “Having within it all sweetness?” or “Having all sweetness within it?” This one gets more awkward the louder and more confidently you answer in chant. Unfortunately that sometimes means you end up chanting some strange combination of both, “Having within it all sweetness in it.” Thankfully Our Lord is just glad that you came to spend time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament!
10. The misplaced “Jesus” nod
We all know that “Every knee shall bend and head shall bow…” at the Name of Jesus. And it is common for Catholics to try to at least bow their heads briefly when they Hear His Name. But sometimes that anticipation gets you into trouble; like when you expect to hear His Name, start the head bow, and then realize that His Name, in fact, was not spoken. Now what? Stop mid-bow and pretend to notice something on the floor? Let your chin hit your chest and pretend to fall asleep? Let out a fake sneeze? Or do you just start nodding emphatically at whatever is being said as though you’re agreeing?
Tell us in the comments! Which awkward moments have you had lately?
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