El Guapo in DC

I am El Guapo. The most Guapo man in all of DC. Mucho Amor

Monday, October 02, 2006

Second time

Today, I went looking for God. I paused after writing that last sentence because it seems so ridiculous to read it on my screen. But, I did in fact go looking for God today.

Mi mind woke me up around 7 AM and instead of going back to sleep, I put on my shoes and went walking through the streets of DC. It turns out that life is sometimes confusing and a walk through the streets that give me inspiration is what I needed.

I turned my back on the church shortly after being able to grow a mustache, but today, I had forgotten why. Maybe my life would be complete if I went to the place mi madre and abuela go for answers. Maybe I would feel better if I lit a candle and dipped my fingers in holy water. Maybe God would give me a sign of some kind.

So, I got my bearings and walked to the nearest Catholic church. When I walked in I was amazed at how many people were in the cathedral. People were standing all along the sides because there were no more seats. God was muy popular on this brisk Sunday morning. Then, I looked again. I was wearing the same jeans and shirt that were worn the night before. The men in this church were not wearing jeans.

In fact, they were all wearing their suits and ties, while their women wore elegant church-like dresses. I was wearing tennis shoes and hair that had not been brushed since the previous evening. I felt out of place. Out of place in the house of God. I felt as if I were not worthy to be in the same house of God as the men with suits.

In my shame I looked up at the beautiful vaulted ceilings and noted the many paintings of white saints whose names I did not know adorned with gold plated squares. Gold in the house of God. So much gold in a house that exists to praise the creator. Suits, ties, white saints and gold. Why?

Does God care if you wear a suit to reach out to him? Does God care if you polish your shoes to walk to him? Does God care for his house to be littered with Gold? Not my God.

My God doesn’t require you to have anything. He doesn’t care if you have one, ten, or zero suits. He doesn’t require gold to be praised. He doesn’t require a house to be praised. My God is there when I feel the warmth of a sun ray on a brisk Sunday morning. He is there when I smile at the sight of my entire family seated at the breakfast table. He is there when I say a little prayer of thanks for mi vida. My God is everywhere. A church is not required.

I decided to leave the church after twenty minutes. I instinctively put my fingers into a marble containter for some holy water to be sprinkled on my head. It was empty. I shook my head and laughed to myself as I heard heads turn to see who was leaving church so early.

As I walked away from the church I turned around and smiled. Then, I turned my back on the church for the second time in my life. This time, however, I knew why.

Mucho Amor,

El Guapo


At 1:08 AM, Blogger Christopher Robin said...

It is interesting what organized religion does to the concept of god and worship. I came to the same realization years ago, though I also gave up on the belief in any god.

I want to say that I admire you for questioning both why you left the church and what the church represents. Far too many people do things just because it is what they have been told to do without thought. I think people would find much more personal satisfaction if they chose to do what they thought was right rather then what they have been told.

At 1:28 AM, Anonymous God said...

It is true, Guapo, that I care not for such trivial things...suits and gold and smart dresses and such...I am everywhere and in everyone.
But that's no excuse to show up without having brushed your hair, at least.
You are, after all, in the presence of the One that made you guapo. And guapo you should be, always.

At 5:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find that the level of unnecessary adornment depends entirely on the particular Catholic church. At the mass that I attended, for instance, about half of the people present were wearing jeans and about a third were wearing sweatpants or pyjama pants. And this was in the suburb where my parents live--not the Catholic student center in Berkeley where I usually go during the school year. I suppose Californians are just more relaxed about such things.

At 6:54 AM, Blogger P1P said...

One more of us, one less of them.

If there is a God (which I doubt) I can't see him/her requiring buildings or men spouting centuries of dogma.

People know what's right or wrong religion just clouds the issue.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well written. well said.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger The Girl with Moxie said...

Beautifully written and an excellent point.

At 5:29 PM, Blogger casey said...

Having grown up catholic and also having turned my back early on, I wonder if, in fact, there will be a third time when we are inching towards old age and thinking of death, of comfort, of reaching out to a community that will accept us when the rest of society shuns us.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmm. Enlightenment feels wonderful, doesn't it?

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Namaste said...

you're right, a church is just an artifice. god can't be something you look for. it's something within. ;)

con carino,


At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that you got the wrong end of it. If you don't like Mass or Church or whatever, it should be because you don't feel fulfilled or you don't think that it is the right way to God.

But complaining about having to dress up? About the ornamentation?

You are complaining about trivial things (the suits, the gold).

The Church is a place for meditating, for prayer, for contemplation. To hear the Word of God, if you like. You are turning your back on it based on superficial things.

I've heard good reasoning on why some people give their backs to the Church (heck, even I have good reasons) but this isn't one of them.

At 12:37 AM, Blogger 637Admin said...

My old Catholic church was like that; a fashion show waiting to happen. Now at my new church, also Catholic, the surfers show up in their wetsuits and sit next to moms and dads in dresses, shorts, jeans, and sometimes suits just to say howdy to God before hitting the waves. The boards all lean up against the back wall, next to the bikes, rollerblades and walkers.

Church doesn't have to be a building, it is the community.

...sez the "Catholic but" who is happily married to a practicing wiccan.

At 1:01 AM, Anonymous may said...

i am so with you in the idea that God is everywhere. you can worship anywhere, but if i do decide to go to church, i think this:

the church is a building. the people who are in it are not the reason why i go to church.

if i see the church and it is so lavish it disgusts me, or if i see the church, it is so shabby it disgusts me, what does that matter? i went to church to worship the God i know, not the building i see.

if i see the people naked, and it disgusts me, or i see the people elegantly dressed and it disgusts me, what is that to me? i went to church to worship the God i know, not the people i see.

unless of course i did go to church to see only the building and the people. because obviously, what we want to look at, that's what we see.

just my two cents...

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous angela said...

i agree with what you've said completely.

however, my mom still insists on me "amen"-ing at the dinner table.

ah well.

At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautiful post el guapo.

taking joy from life and trying to be a good person is enough for some of us. find your god where you want to - don't listen to anyone else.

organized religion can be a polarizing topic with lots of hand wringing on either side - but that was very nicely done. bravo!

At 10:51 AM, Blogger SkippyMom said...

You really, really need to come to our Catholic Church in the VA 'burbs if the clothing bothers you at this particular church - heck, it looks like a dance club half the time and it is always standing room only - but we would more than welcome you - as you said God doesn't care about suits and ties - that being said, some people choose to dress in suits and dresses for church because they feel more comfortable in that attire as opposed to something else.
Now I don't know if I missed a much deeper meaning to this post, but my 2 cents are:
Church should be what you make of it, not what it will make you...and if you have to question it based on clothing and adornment, then perhaps, the problem is something else?
Hugs Guapo - and if it really is the clothing, then you MUST come visit us - but please do brush your hair...heehee

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Kim Ayres said...

They'll never let you back into Guatemala now...

At 9:28 PM, Blogger La Mitotera said...

While I respect your decision to turn your back on the church, I don't really understand your reason why. Also, it seems like you are the one being judgmental. Although God probably doesn't care if you wear a suit, why look down on people who show their respect for God by dressing up? Now if these people were unkind to you or did something that evidenced their lack of respect for God's teachings that is one thing, but taking the time to brush your hair and put on a pair of slacks shouldn't be considered a bad thing. Also, lots of churches have gold and beautiful ornamentation because that is one way people show their appreciation for the role the church has played in their lives. While the ornamentation may not be important to you, I would argue that it is yet another way for people to give praise and thanks for the way God has taken care of them. At my church we have a baptismal room that has a lot of gold leaf on the ceiling. The interesting story behind that room is that while it was supposed to be financed by rich people when the great depression happened, none of the people who had pledged money could to give the money they originally promised. It was all the dishwashers and maids that donated a little here and there each week to make that gorgeous room happen. Now you may think this was an unnecessary sacrifice for someone to make, but those people helped support a breathtaking piece of religious art that will exist for years. I personally enjoy the beauty of many of these churches and think they are just a physical manifestation of people’s love and appreciation for God.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Lana Wood said...

I agree with your sense of God as being everywhere. You don't need a fancy building with fancy accoutrements, and worshippers dressed to the nines. I too have a lot of issues with organized religion, especially mine. What I always liked about church, any church, is the sense of community. If the community does not give you the sense it is one to which you want to belong, move on until you find one that is a good fit.

I brush my hair, and put on clean clothes, right side out and everything, to go to church, or work, or school, or on a date, or to hang out with friends. I do this out of respect for myself and for those I will be visiting. But, I have nights like yours where I wake up earlier than I like, or never get to sleep, and go for a walk, and wander in somewhere inappropriately dresssed, but if it is where I want to be, or need to be, it doesn't matter, and it shouldn't matter to you either. Also, the guy at the 24 hour convenience store really likes my pajamas, they're especially hot with my sneakers.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Me! said...

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

You are right. God can be found every day - the breeze on my cheek, the warmth of the sun, the coolness of the earth. The God many churches profess to worship by building ornate buildings is not the God I know. God doesn't need or want those things - fancy clothes and big buildings. God cares about our hearts and the love we have toward him and each other.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

Nothing else is as important in God's eyes than those two things.

At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Class factotum said...

You are right -- God is everywhere. But if you go to a friend's house for dinner, don't you dress up nicely? You are, after all, El Guapo. You have a reputation to maintain!

When you go to Mass, you are going to God's house. Dressing nicely is a way of showing respect. God won't think any less of you for showing up in jeans, but it's a nice thing to dress up. Your madre would be pleased, if nothing else.

And as far as a church being a beautiful building -- how lucky we are as Catholics to have such gloriously beautiful places in which to worship! Again, the building is not necessary -- Jesus said, "Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, etc, etc" (OK, He didn't say the "etc" part), but doesn't it enhance the experience to be in such beautiful surroundings? I feel awe and wonder at the majesty of what humans have created to glorify God when I stand in some of the cathedrals I have seen.

And the artwork the Vatican has made available to the world -- what a rich heritage we have! (Not all of it is good, of course, but then, as the oldest and largest human institution on earth, we do have our flaws.)

The church is the people and the community -- as Christians, we worship in community -- that's part of the deal -- but as Catholics, we also have ritual to remind us of the awesome presence of God. Why not surround ourselves in beauty when possible?

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Student said...

You know, anywhere else a Catholic Church is warm and welcoming. I'm suprised you happened to walk into one that gave you a bad vibe.

Did anyone say anything to you? I've done the same thing you did many times: walked in severely underdressed and felt completely out of place.

Just because you saw a crowd of well-dressed people, don't assume they think highly of themselves. Even if they do, you don't have to leave just for them.

Sorry if this sounds like an attack: it's not. You can turn your back on the Church-- I've done it before. Just leave the door open. It's fun to visit every once in a while.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Crankster said...

I was raised a devout Catholic, and, although I don't go to mass anymore, I'm still a Catholic. For me, this is sort of like how someone who hasn't had a drink in years can still be an alcoholic. I am, essentially, a recovering Cathoholic.

Soemtimes when I visit a church, I'm amazed at the structures that faith can build. What gets me, though, is when the external appearance of the church or the parishioners seems to overcompensate for the lack of true religious faith. The last church that I regularly attended, in Northern Virginia, was an excellent demonstration of this--for many of the parishioners, church was a place to show off your clothes, your car, or your devotion to God. It wasn't, unfortunately, a place to strengthen that devotion. This became particularly clear to me when my family experienced severe problems and was rejected by several fellow parishioners, people that we had considered close friends.

In the book of Matthew (note misused Catholic school education), Jesus says that prayer should be private, and that people who trumpet their devotion are hypocrites. My problem with my church (and, sometimes, with churches in general) is that some people seem to ignore their private relationship with God in favor of a very public show of righteousness.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger jaymichaelrivera said...

Aiy, que lastima, I missed this post. Turn your back on EG for one week and look what happens. ;] Hijole!

I think you express what a lot of people of our generation think: It isn't God we mind so much as his PR staff. I've been doing a lot of reading in my seminary program on this very same topic, specifically how to engage in meaningful conversation about God with those who have tired of the formulaic side of religion. All ceremony and no heart, with little to know emphasis on some of the larger social issues -- AIDS, poverty, global warming, fighting for the little guy.

Anyway. Excellent post, como siempre. I would suggest that you continue looking for God within the context of a church community. Wonderful things happen in the right community. Que lastima that you don't live on the Left Coast. I'd invite you over for church and ceviche tostadas in the comeador afterward.

Hasta Pronto. -- J

At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more, christopher robin


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