Incense Survivor

A_Retro_Cartoon_Woman_Coughing_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_100603-003094-438053I read this term in an Anne Lamott book deciding it described my feelings toward Catholicism perfectly, being the recovering Catholic I am.

It also reminded me, Easter is upon us.  images-2

It was always my favorite holiday, even now, at least aesthetically. Though I don’t attend mass anymore there are many things I still miss…like getting dressed up Easter Sunday in navy and white, kitten heels mewing up those church steps…lilies, candles, priests drenched in gold and white while trumpets blare from the balcony. It truly is a happy, majestic Sunday which is why those pews are packed.

My mother was big on Easter clothes and the whimsical side of the day. images-1 Baskets filled with chocolate eggs and jellybeans, a stuffed bunny in its center. One year I actually got a stuffed Popeye doll because I gather she shopped late and all the bunnies were sold out.

Then of course you had the ham of God who took away the sins of the world, another  Lamottism unabashedly borrowed.

Pineapple rings, twenty different types of mustard served in tiny china bowls with matching spoons. Boiled potatoes the size of baseballs. Prosciutto to start. Yeah I know, that’s a lotta ham…one could say we liked eating our own, so to speak.

Dessert was cantaloupe with lavish scoops of vanilla ice-cream, melted chocolate drizzled over the side… cookies as far as the eye could see.

Did I mention the heaping platter of rigatoni in-between?

Besides Christmas, it was the one day a year we belched as a family.

I don’t miss being told God would strike me dead if I didn’t behave. In other words, clean my plate clearing everyone else’s at the end like a flight attendant. I grew up truly scared of God where now, still a believer, look up to a kinder one who supports my shortcomings instead of shortchanging me simply because I have them.

We’re supposed to have them. We’re just Bozos on the same bus after all, bumping our heads against the collective ceiling.

Parents tend to use religion as a weapon, at least in my house. God was very convenient to punish and browbeat which is the Catholic way.

Nothing is ever enough. For years I tithed ten percent of my income to two different churches. Didn’t matter how much I sent, there would be another envelope in the mail on the heels of every check.

The Catholic church expects you to fork over your money and then some always feeling you should have given more.

I have a problem with this. Giving is a grace regardless of what or who the recipient is. I know when I receive it, I’m on my knees in gratitude.

My mother would make me go into my piggy bank and take coins out to put in the basket on Sundays, an act I greatly resented. It wasn’t as though I were Diamond Jim Brady. It   definitely compromised my capitol, even though my grandfather would replace those quarters when no one was looking. He too thought it was a raw deal.

But like him, I now believe in the Church of Grace and Heartfelt Giving, a much nicer one to belong to.

It doesn’t even have to come in dollars and cents. A smile or word of encouragement, I’ve learned, is the greatest currency reaping the highest return.

Many of us, sadly, live in a perpetual Good Friday, so we need to rise up declaring resurrection for ourselves because no one else will do for us.

Till I was forty I was sure I was going to hell.

Now I think it’s more Paris or Palm Beach.

Sometimes all we need, besides that bunny and pretty dress, is a new travel agent with better and brighter deals.     images-1

Bet you didn’t know God came with frequent flyer miles 🙂






About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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8 Responses to Incense Survivor

  1. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, as a sort-of-Catholic I can identify with your post. Although my parents were not very strict. I loved Easter Sunday with Mom and I wearing the matching dresses she made. And of course a fancy new Easter hat and new lacy ankle socks. Being a candyholic I appreciated the candy.
    At home, my father would get his microphone out and say, “This is Fred at Purina Feeds calling Agum Spirit 220, come in Agum, are you there?”


  2. katecrimmins says:

    I can relate to this one. Easter was always my favorite holiday because it came with new clothes. (Surprise, surprise) There wasn’t a Christmas outfit but there always was an Easter one complete with new shoes and a real corsage. I also loved the pageantry at church with everyone looking spiffy. Big ham dinner. My Mom made the best ham. I don’t know how she did it but I don’t think they make ham the same way. She always cooked it the day before, then baked with the pineapple. It also happened in spring when there is hope of wonderful weather and an upcoming summer vacation. It isn’t only religions that badger you for money. Some of my favorite charities will send an envelope along with a thank you for your contribution. It really annoys me!


    • I guess ham was universal along with those envelopes. I realize organizations need money but sometimes it’s way over the top. I prefer when giving is my idea, not when there’s a gun to my head…I bet you looked pretty in those new shoes and real corsage.


      • katecrimmins says:

        Ahhhh! The shoes! Even then I was fascinated with them. Most years they were black patent leather (nice and shiny) but I remember the first year the color “bone” came out. Had to have them and I did.


      • I love spectator pumps…beige with the black toe. Chanel makes them, but I have a good copy…would have to sell myself to afford Chanel these days. I like black patent leather too…Mary Janes as a kid started that trend.


  3. I’m a Christian, although not a Catholic, and it makes me feel bad to see many Christian groups (Catholic and Protestant) make things like giving and serving such a chore. After all, the New Testament doesn’t say anything about tithing. It only says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” which is such a nicer way of doing things. The whole point of Jesus coming was to set people free, and yet we still like to make up more rules to tack on to what he said.

    By the way, those sound like epic Easter meals. Our family did something special, but never to that degree. Your description makes my mouth water. 🙂


    • It’s nice of you to read all of my essays…I know you’re busy.

      I have always been a cheerful giver…just don’t like when there’s a gun to my head.

      I’m a fan of The Prayer For Peace that says, receiving is in the giving. When you read about religion you do see God has little to do with what’s organized. That’s a comforting thing to know.


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