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In the Belly of the Beast

There's nothing like being raised Catholic to recommend a dislike of organized religion. The funeral of a friend yesterday compelled my enduring a Catholic Church service for perhaps the second time in thirty years. And as such services go, it reminded me of why I left. While the surroundings were somewhat more modern, including cacti behind the altar, stripped down décor and a sort of placid soviet realism in the stained glass and stations of the cross, the mass was ruthlessly unchanged.

One would have thought that Beverly Hills Catholics would have a rather laid-back, ecumenical pastor, but then one would also be mistaken. In his disapproving brogue, the stern Irish priest made no secret of his contempt for the vast majority of mourners who were not Catholics at all but rather Hollywood heathens, or of his disapproval that the deceased had apparently never attended or otherwise engaged in Catholic-related program activities. Nor was his sermon likely to cause the sudden mass conversion the good father felt it richly deserved (he'd be horrified to learn I ended up reading Nuit to spare myself having to listen). But the eulogies were touching, and the soloist had a lovely voice, though she chose to sing in keys outside of anyone else's range.

In the end, it was nice to re-connect with friends, meet new ones and provide some comfort for the family. Funerals may be for the living to express their grief, but when I go, I'd rather my friends congregate to party, reminisce, and then set off fireworks into which my ashes had been commingled.

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