At the time, I didn’t ask myself why she invited me. I was young, wanted to make friends and was open to new experiences. But now I know. I know now why she invited me. She decided that she would ‘save’ me. I was the project she was hoping to get an A+ on—an A+ that would open wide the gates of Heaven. Why, one day old Saint Peter himself would greet her and exclaim, “Way to go (I forget her name)! The best gold harp for you!” That’s the way she must have imagined it. She wanted me to be, not her friend, but her pre-paid ticket to Heaven.
I can’t remember what exactly she said, when she invited me, but she did use the term Charismatic Catholic. Whatever! Sure, I’ll check it out. Why not?
The meeting was in a school, (must have been a Catholic school), on the second floor. We sat around in a circle, and people talked. What they talked about, I don’t recall, so it couldn’t have been that interesting. If it were interesting, I would not have forgotten it.
There was a stout little priest who was quiet and docile, and always seemed to be battling something within his own mind. There was a blind guy they doted on because blind guys feature big in Christianity. And there was a very outspoken middle aged woman who ran the show. At least, I think she was middle aged…when you’re that young everyone over 25 looks middle aged. Those are the only ones I can remember.
So I went maybe 2 or 3 times to sit in a circle and listen to these people. They were a little weird, but I’d been in a Pentecostal Church before, so I knew about weird. Weird didn’t particularly weird me out.
Then it happened…
There we were sitting in the circle when suddenly the outspoken woman who ran the show started ‘speaking in tongues.’ Okay, whatever! Go with the flow.
I watched as her male ‘attendants’ would bring someone to her. She’d babble something then thrust her hand forward, making that person fall backwards. The attendants would then dutifully catch the fallen in their arms. From there, the person would be laid out on the floor like a freshly slain body. I assumed the idea was that they were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they were rendered paralyzed. Soon the floor was covered in people.
Well, didn’t someone just come over to me and grab me by the arm. I didn’t want to go, but what could I say? I was young and just wanted people to like me. And they were so gung-ho about this speaking in tongues and people all over the floor thing. So I went.
If I remember right, the outspoken and now tongues-speaking woman was about eye level with me, but she didn’t look at me. Instead, she was looking upwards as if she could see more than just the ugly classroom ceiling. From there, it all happened so fast. She was saying something that didn’t sound much like anything at all, when suddenly WHAP! she hit me in the forehead! I couldn’t believe it! She hit me HARD! right in the forehead! I didn’t get it. Wasn’t it supposed to be the Holy Spirit who knocked you down, and not some bare fleshy undeniably corporeal hand?
The hit caused me to stumble backwards, but I quickly regained my footing and stared her right in the eye. She stared back at me and that was when I saw it…the hatred…the anger…the ‘how dare you not fall to my authority like the others.’ I tell you, if I’d never seen the devil before, I saw him that night in her eyes. What a situation I was in!
Thinking to myself, that if I didn’t fall back she might keep hitting me until I did, the next time she hit me, I fell back. They put me on the floor with the others and I covered my face with my hands. The others did not cover their faces, but for some reason I felt I couldn’t leave my face exposed in this room. So there I was, on the floor, praying to God and saying, “This is ridiculous. What do I do now?”
Anyway, I stayed there and played along for while, getting more and more frustrated with the entire silly situation. I kept wondering just how long one was required to be ‘overcome.’ Finally, I peeked through my fingers to see if the others were off the floor and many of them were, so I decided that it was okay to get up.
In keeping with the show, I then got up, walked over and hugged the blind guy. That seemed to confuse the heck out of him, but it also seemed an appropriate ending scene to this crazy play.
The next week I went back. I don’t know why. I guess like so many lonely teenagers, I would overlook a lot in pursuit of friends. So I went back, but they were gone. The school was locked and there was no light on the second floor.
Later in the school hallway, I would sometimes pass the girl who invited me. But we never really spoke again, and I never asked her about the group or what happened to them. I suppose it just seemed fitting that it should end that way.