The fan of paradox and irony that I am, I was at once horrified and overjoyed to hear that my Physical Performance II class (which I call Physical Perforation due to the discomfort it causes my corpulent figure) would be visiting a local Catholic school for very young people to perform a series of clown acts that we had been working on during the semester. Thankfully, I have an unfair advantage at this, since because of my reputedly gruff demeanor and impatience with slapstick, the very act of me even putting on a clown nose is considered quite funny to anyone who knows me. "Worth the price of admission, right there," as Joe Legate is wont to smirk.
Due to various circumstances, I wasn't able to perform in the clown set anyhow, but I traveled along with the rest of the group to watch and be a designated holder of coats, purses, phones and keys (undoubtedly training for my future career as the ever-helpful butler of a superhero). But before I could be resigned to this task, I was overwhelmed with the sudden timidity that seethes into me whenever I am striding that fine tightrope between sorrow and rage, which was inspired in me by the garish horror of the school that I had just stepped into.
Most people are unaware of the rather ambiguous content of the stories of Joseph. It is told in differing ways between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, for example: in one Joseph and family live in Nazareth and then travel to Bethlehem in accordance with a census levied by Roman authorities; in another, they flee from Bethlehem to Nazareth after Herod's expiration. Matthew's is also the only Gospel to mention the infant massacre or the holy family's sojourn into Egypt and back. He is barely mentioned in the Bible outside of these events yet is regarded as a saint by many Orthodox faiths, despite his never performing of a miracle, which is a requirement in numerous current dogmas. It's also conveniently forgotten that he very much wanted to leave Mary (as they were not yet married, "divorce" is a not an applicable term) when he discovered her pregnancy, but was apparently dissuaded when an angel appeared to him in a dream confirming that Mary's vagina does indeed work merely one-way. None of these seem to be praiseworthy enough to name a school after the man, let alone mark him as a saint.
Upon my entrance into St. Joseph's, I was instantly greeted by a large portrait depicting various biblical stories, across the top of which was emblazoned "Ite Incendite Mundum", which for those even more unfamiliar with Latin than myself reads: "Set the World on Fire". This harrowing epigram was at least as ominous to me as "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here" or "Welcome to the State of Alabama." Needless to say, there are plenty of metaphorical and symbolic justifications to the text argued by theists (when are there not?) but the outright banner of it was unsettling nonetheless. This was only bolstered by the fact that everywhere I turned I saw not only hanging crosses, which are macabre enough in themselves for anyone who chooses to remember the shape as a blood-streaked instrument of the worst devised torture that could be conjured by men at the time; but crucifixes, which instead of suggesting the barbarism, display it in gruesome detail. Everywhere I turned, I saw a man spitted and thrashed and nailed to the wood, just above the eye-level of hundreds of children no higher than my knee, laughing and chittering away obliviously. My gorge rose at it.
Enter: the Clowns into the Classroom. More crucifixes and admonitions from prophets. The Beatitudes hung on a wall (starting the bribery lessons early, I suppose). As the tiny humans congregated in a none-too-quiet fashion to watch my peers mime missed handshakes, shoddy ballet, and other such sets, my eyes roved the room, picking up the details. I noticed to my childish delight that an orbital map of the world hung on one wall, in an institution which for centuries maintained that the earth was a disc in the middle of a geocentric universe. As the laughter of young ones swelled, my eye caught a picture of a priest whom I suppose is an administrator of some sort in the school, and my mind washed with images of Father Murphy, the deplorable subject of Mea Maxima Culpa; or of Doubt's Flynn; of the desiccated and haggish face of Josef Ratzinger, who very near to that day was to lay down his crosier and give up the triregnum, who had for years received to his desk every allocation and detail of every sexual abuse travesty in every church under Vatican authority and deftly covered them up. I wondered quietly to myself if I, unknowingly, sat in a school wherein the same indescribable horror might have occurred. Do not think, gentle reader, that I bring up such a morbid fantasy merely to make chills run down your spine: the possibility is as definite as the sun rising in the east.
In any case, I remain despondent at the fact that school such as this exist, which teach untruths and false moralities, which cost undoubtedly more than is comfortable for those whose faiths are so stubborn that they must manage in order for their offspring to see and respect god in all his wonder; schools that portray madmen and liars and charlatans and pedophiles as righteous and learned ministers of humanity; institutions that house all the potential for bright-mindedness and free-thinking, and squander it on ritual, surrender, and a love of death. It must be said that, despite the wonderful, clownish antics of my comrades, I left St. Joseph's with a sad and weary heart.