Reading the prayer

One spring Sunday morning in the early 2000s the girl (who was in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade of elementary school) was about to attend the 10 or 11 o’clock mass in the Catholic church in her village. This Sunday resembled every other Sunday, and the girl was accustomed to attending church masses. In addition to attending Religious Education classes in school, it was expected from all students to attend a Sunday mass, especially those who were getting ready for their first communion or the confirmation sacraments, and her class was getting ready for the second one. Students needed to have enough signatures to be able to receive the sacraments, and the girl wanted to make sure she successfully fulfilled the requirement, even though she was unable to embrace religiosity in the spiritual sense, and was never given an explanation of higher purpose in attending religious education classes. Each time she would go to church, she would take her small white attendance register, where her teacher would put the signature and confirm the girl’s presence in church on that day. Even though the girl’s own parents were not religious and were not raised and educated in Catholic spirit, they still enrolled her in Religious Education class from the beginning of her schooling. 

Her teacher was a short, loud woman, whom she really loved because of her kindness, even though she was oftentimes pushy about the students’ mass attendance. For some reason (it might have been around Easter holiday or something, she remembers it was springtime), the teacher really insisted that students come to attend the mass that weekend. The girl did not feel like going (she actually rarely felt like spending Sunday mornings in church), and she was waiting for the last minute to enter the church because she did not want to be appointed as student reader (it was a common practice for a student to read the prayer for that day behind the microphone in front of the altar). Up until that point she was never appointed the reader, and she did not intend to become one because it was the kind of attention she didn’t want (she was quite a shy girl then, and she was terrified of public speaking).

However (and surprisingly), she was the only higher-grade student that showed up that day in church. Immediately upon seeing her, the teacher told her she was going to be a prayer reader that day. The girl doesn’t know if she tried to refuse, but there was no discussion anyways. When the moment came, she got up to the podium and started reading the passages the teacher specifically instructed her to. However, a few seconds later the priest suddenly came up to her, took the prayer book from her hands, pushed her back towards the seating area together with uttering worlds like “just go,” “just go.” It seems there was a misunderstanding between him and her teacher on what passages to read, but the priest’s abrupt and almost angry reaction made her feel really ashamed. 

The shock was even bigger when she tried to reconcile the always fatherly figure of the priest whom she loved and was a constant presence in her life (in the everyday rather than spiritual and deeply religious sense) to his dismissive way of treating her in that moment, in front of everyone. She bowed her head in shame and walked back to the seating area on the left side of the church, where she quickly sat in one of the squeaking first, second, or third row benches where she tried to be as invisible as possible. Her whole body was shrinking in shame. Despite being pushed away from the podium, she still did not know what she did wrong, and neither the teacher nor the priest commented on this confusing moment afterwards. She also knew one of her subject teachers was there in the crowd, and she was afraid the teacher would comment on this incident in their class at school (this teacher was known as being really gossipy).