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I found the fountain of youth last month, but I’m not interested in partaking of it again. It was at a Catholic church here in town during Advent. Almost as soon as I walked in the door with my 81-year-old mother,  I felt transported back to adolescence–all snark and muttering to myself and rolling my eyes and looking around at people wondering how they can put up with this. Feeling young again might have felt liberating if it hadn’t felt so stifling.

The only clue that I wasn’t an adolescent was that I used my time in the pew to do my Kegel exercises. Before things got started, I read a notice about proper behavior in church that an usher had handed out and hoped for some decent Christmas music. Imagine my surprise when the priest began the festivities by saying that one young lady in one of the front two rows who answered his question wins a prize. Don’t remember that from the old days. Don’t remember the question either, but the prize, which he pulled from his robes (memo to priests everywhere: Don’t ever pull anything from your robe!) was a tin of Virginia Peanuts. Of course. Famous church marketing 101. Jack up sales of peanuts by talking about them at the outset of Mass. Crass was more like it.

I appreciated his antics even more (or less) when he began his homily by commenting on the sacredness of what goes on in church, lamenting his parishioners bad behavior and instructing us to read the notice in the pews about the solemnness of church and how we are to conduct ourselves in it. I do not like being told what to do–especially when I’d already done it and didn’t need to do it to know how to behave. The instructions were all about not eating or texting or talking while in church. How handy for him that they hadn’t included playing Jeopardy and hawking peanuts in front of the congregation as what not to do. From all my church-going and Catholic school-going years, I seem to remember something about Jesus throwing the money-changers out of the Temple. On my next visit to church, I think I’ll institute clandestine pew yoga to help me find some peace. Otherwise I might have to stand up and say something. Want to come watch?! I’m guessing I’m the one who’d get thrown out of there.

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