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My peaceful thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the priest biting down on what appeared to be the outer edge of a sheet of communion hosts. I wondered whose job it was to pop them all out on the off hours. It struck me as a strange thing to question during my mother-in-law’s funeral service but I forgave myself the deviation from my state of mourning. I was simply fascinated by the sight of him chewing and by the echo of the crunching noise bouncing off the wall of the sparsely filled church. It felt sacrilegious. The host was the body of Christ. No teeth were ever to be in contact as far as my recollection went. It was to be placed on the tongue, moistened by wine and left to dissolve slowly while in prayer. The priest drank and chewed as though he had not eaten any breakfast.

Do as I say; not as I do.

Although the service was in Italian, a language of which I am familiar but not fluent by any means, the prompt of him taking communion alerted me that the congregation of mourners would soon follow in the ritual. The sun chose this time to filter though the huge panes of stained glass, scattering and filtering across the shiny marble alter. If anyone missed those rays, they may have missed out on a sign from heaven, I thought.  The church must have been built in the sixties as it was decidedly modern; perhaps even ground breaking in its day for its simplicity and progressive design. I thought the engineers must have taken into consideration the late morning sun when they chose to build the entire back wall of massive strips of angled, coloured glass.

For a fleeting moment which then turned into a lingering moment, I was transported back twenty-two years. The same people filled the front pew save the one who was placed in her casket, in the center aisle of the church beside her beloved husband of fifty-six years.

Then though it was a time of joy and celebration; the baptism of what was to be my only child. The same people were present but in an Anglican church which was smaller with beautiful traditional stained glass windows filtering the light. The same Father, the same Son and the same Holy Spirit were in attendance. The Holy Trinity that I never fully understood even with hours of tutoring by the Anglican priest.

“So, now does it make sense to you that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are in fact one and separately God?” He seemed to implore me with his eyes to agree.

“No, I can’t seem to reach that conclusion with you but …” my voice trailed off while I thought of an appropriate way to make it up to him that his teachings had not convinced me. “I’ll try to figure it out before the Christening. I’m sure I will get it by then!” It sounded weak, even to my own ears but it was all I had. Was I to lie to him?

So, there we sat. The babies had been splashed ceremoniously with holy water, the prayers completed and the communion part of the celebration on queue to be next.

English: Stained glass window with Trinity sym...

I stood, glancing over my left shoulder waiting for the rest to follow. As I let my eyes trail to the end of the pew I noticed their eyes facing forward collectively in what I took to mean a silent protest. The purposeful act slapped my face as sure as the hand of an angry father. I proceeded alone to take the body of Christ, drink his blood from the silver chalice and let the body slowly and deliberately melt.

But that was then and this was now.

Do as I say; not as I do.

Today, it was up to me to be a bigger person and so I stood and walked with the others single file, accepting my host with the tiny embossed cross on its surface. There was no silver chalice to drink from. No wine, no blood offered. I supposed that AIDS, herpes and other communicable diseases had infiltrated the Catholic church at some point over the last couple of decades. Maybe some of the diseases had spread like wild fire amongst the priests themselves, the altar boys and settled into the congregation. What a monumental change in what is a staunch religion and what a quiet one too.

Do as I say; not as I do.

Me and my host, Jesus Christ himself, kneeled praying and then against all that I thought I had come to believe I touched my forehead, my heart, my right shoulder and my left ending my prayer with, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

Tears welled and flowed freely for the first time since her passing and I sobbed not knowing the real reason why and so feeling decidedly selfish about my emotions. My thoughts screamed because I knew that my control which I had so preciously protected had been lost and it would be so difficult to recover. And in my mind the line again surfaced reminding me of my upbringing – do as I say; not as I do.

This is a work of creative non-fiction.

Lesley Fletcher is a writer (freelance, books, content, lyrics, stage plays) as well as a visual artist with a concentration in monoprints. To learn more about her please visit the tabs here on WordPress or her website at http://www.LesleyFletcher.com