December 31, 2015

Explaining the Litany

So I went to Florida for a week.

I found myself attempting to explain the Litany to various family members at various times. Some of them shrugged and didn't try to understand, but just said things like, "Well, you just write whatever you want!" (Which was said with warmth and as genuine encouragement, and I appreciated it.) Others said they liked it better as "pray for the Dead", which is of course a perfectly valid modification (much of my family is Catholic). My father, on the other hand, thought it was very beautiful, and praised it repeatedly, but could NOT understand what the point of it was, no matter how I tried to explain it. He could not grasp why anyone would want to honor so many of the Dead, or indeed any of the Dead who weren't people they'd known directly.

I tried explaining it as a way of remembering and connecting with the past -- which it is, though that's not the most important thing for me -- but he didn't get that. So I tried saying it was like how he understood himself better when he thought about what his parents were like, and he got what he did, but not how it applied in a wider context. I tried explaining this concept a couple of other ways, and then gave up, flummoxed. Certainly I couldn't not even attempt to explain to my father (who's very casually an atheist from a Baptist background, and doesn't even really have a concept of praying for the Dead the way my Catholic relations do, and has never really attempted to understand anything about my religion before) that I was really praying to the spirits of the Dead, as real entities, to praise and comfort them. That would have gone nowhere at all. (He also encouraged my sister-in-law to read the Litany, but not the introduction, because he hadn't understood or liked it.)

It's interesting, the way trying to explain it to outsiders -- family, but outsiders to my religion and my understanding of the world -- changed the way I talked about it.

Happy New Year