Church and church-related issues. More later.
.... See, told you more was coming and here it is, though I'll keep it brief.
1) We went to church on Sunday. We've started sitting behind the altar as it's far less crowded and cooler, and behind us is the big Jesus statue, standing on a lotus flower with the peacocks by his feet. Last week we commented on all the graffiti all over Jesus's feet and robes. Sunday, we had easy viewing of someone climb over the rail, step up next to the statue and start writing on a section of his robes. Appalled is putting it lightly.
2) On May 20th we had a scheduled meeting with the parish priest, so he could talk to the kids and we could finally nail down their First Communion date, place and time. We were there, he wasn't. As we were sitting waiting, the kids drew a lot of attention from Indian tourists who come to see the Basilica and St. Thomas shrine. They took pictures of the kids, sidled up to the kids, and one woman put her baby on my lap to take a photo of us. Um, OK. We moved further indoors to wait by the rectory door. A nun came by and asked what we were waiting for. I told her and learned that the priest had left the day before for a 10-day holiday. Come back in June.
Sunday being June 1st, we cornered him after Mass and reminded him of our prior appointment. He placed the blame on us, saying we were supposed to call and confirm. I guess we'd have had to confirm he wasn't going to be there? Anyhow, he never mentioned that last time, nor did he give us a phone number to call (the numbers on the parish board do not work). So he brought us to the office and proceeded to ask why we were there.
He had no recollection of us... the 2 white women with the 3 white kids who want First Communion.
Over the next 45 minutes he was fixated on the idea that the boys are 8 years old. We've told him that's the normal age in the U.S. Here in Chennai it's 10 years old. If he'd told us right off that 8 years was too young and they couldn't do it here, that would something, but we pressed on. He asked the other mom to quiz them. He wasn't happy with their replies, especially Nicholas. Nicholas doesn't talk much, and he certainly doesn't talk when he's nervous.
The greatest issue I think was that the kids hadn't memorized the whole First Communion prep book. They couldn't spit words and passages out instantaneously. That's how kids are taught here in India, memorize vast swaths whether they're understood or not. As long as you have instant recall, that's good enough.
So we have another appointment for this coming Friday. And the priest said he would take the kids into the church and quiz them himself (wait, are they supposed to know all the parts of the church and such too?) then determine if they would need another chat with him.
Oh, and he asked what month we were planning to have the Sacrament. We told him this month, in 2 weeks actually, because that's what we'd said 6 weeks ago. Because both our families will be in town, from the U.S.
He wouldn't commit one way or the other.
I find it most frustrating that we're trying to get Sacraments done and the church is uninterested in helping us accomplish our goal (which one could assume would be their goal as well). Granted, we aren't parishioners. We aren't parishioners because we attend a church out of our home zone. We attend a church out of our zone because it's one of the few that has English services. English services on Sunday morning that isn't at 6:30 a.m. I would register if they'd let me. I tried within a couple months of arriving in Chennai and was told no. I don't really think I understand parish boundaries. Shouldn't we be able to attend any church we wish? And not just attend, but belong to as well?
So we go back on Friday and jump through more little hoops, all while hoping this will actually happen, and I'm doubting more and more that it will.
I wonder if he'll be there.