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Good Friday - What's So Good About It?

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Today is Good Friday, the day Christ was crucified. It is a holy day of obligation for people like me, who were raised as strict Catholics. I always liked Mary, especially the poetic memorare prayerand the Queen of the May festival where we sang Bring Flowers of the Rarest and crowned Mary with flowers.

But I never quite understood the church's obsession with blood and suffering. Hairshirts? Self-flagellation? Any sin can be forgiven if you suffer enough.

Even as a child, when I skinned a knee, I was told, "Offer your suffering up to the Lord." I used to wonder, "Why does God want my suffering? Does He enjoy my pain?"

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Catholics like trinkets religious icons -- things like medals, figurines and holy cards. Holy cards were given out as a reward to children who memorized their prayers or excelled in school. They were like Jesus' M&Ms.

Some of the cards were pretty dang gruesome. Dogs licking at Lazarus' wounds? Lucy with her own eyeballs in her hands? Saints and Martyrs pierced by arrows, spinning on giant wheels of torture, women burning at the stake - it's seriously twisted. But no one got it worse than Jesus. Because Jesus was suffering for all of our sins. It's a very quid pro quo religion.

The bloodiest holy card I have ever seen is the one I scanned and posted here. I found it one day when my mother dragged me to the church carnival. They had just cleaned out the basement of old holy cards and pamphlets, so the rummage sale was a real score. This is the sufferingest Jesus ever. Not only is he gruesomely covered in open wounds, but it is the most depressing holy card I have ever seen. The bottom of the card hopelessly reads:

"I looked for one that would comfort me and I found none."

This is the prayer on the back of the suffering Jesus holy card posted above. Seriously. "O deep wounds! O blood shed in abundance!" Are you kidding me?

The card continues with "Promises of our Lord"

I will grant all that shall be asked of Me, through the invocation on My Holy Wounds. With My Wounds and my Divine Heart you can obtain all.

This card has ecclesiatical approval (at the time) and was printed by the Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Brooklyn, New York.

So now you know why some religious people put up with so much - at least they're not suffering the bloody wounds of Jesus. And even if they do suffer, it buys them time in the afterlife. Because Catholics also believe in a postmortem waiting room - Purgatory. Every sin increases your time in Purgatory. My mom keeps a mental tally sheet. Every time she does someone a favor or has to put up with something annoying, she says, "Well, it's coming off of my time in Purgatory"

So don't forget - today is a holy day of obligation -- fasting and abstinance! You don't want to end up like this holy card for eternity, do you? Maybe I'll go to hell for writing things like this. But after 12 years of Catholic school (and summer camp) I think I've got to be in the black.

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