Seeing that something like 95% of Finns are Lutheran, I was raised as a Lutheran and "guided" (read: forced) by my parents to attend Sunday school and confirmation class at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Prospect Heights, IL. I hated it! To make matters worse, my dad would torment me by saying that if I slept past 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, then I wouldn't have to go to church. So, being the good Christian soldier I was, I trained myself to be absolutely motionless upon waking up because I knew that my dad would be peeking into my bedroom looking for the slightest sign of movement. I'm not kidding - I would wake up, not move, and then I'd hear my dad snickering in the doorway. Considering it a lost cause, I'd wipe the sleep from my eyes and see "8:58" on the clock radio. DAMN!!! I still say he was using a feather on a long stick or something like it to wake me up - NOT FAIR!!!
This Sunday morning struggle continued pretty much until 1978 when I had my confirmation. I walked out of the church in my green polyester suit with the aftertaste of the wine and wafer in my mouth, and I made the commitment to living my life observant of good Christian values (do unto others..., no killing, coveting, etc., etc.) but without the beauty-sleep depriving attendance of church.
Here I am, nearly thirty years later, and I must say that I HAVE actually been to church a good number of times since 1978. I've attended countless weddings and baptisms, AND I've visited many European cathedrals as a tourist. Those all count as going to church - right???
Let's now move the clock hands quickly ahead to one week ago right...now! It was one week ago right at this very moment that we were standing in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City, and as far as I'm concerned, I received the ultimate Christian booster shot! You see...Mrs. TBF, Jo, Perry, Renee, and I (along with several thousand other people) were on hand to receive the Pope's blessing (sorry...the zoom on my old camera isn't too good and I ended up taking a picture through my binoculars). While my dear Catholic family members only were able to understand the Pope's message in English, I had the advantage of understanding his blessing auf Deutsch. Here is what he said in German (translated and paraphrased into English):
For you extraordinary Lutheran pilgrims who have overcome life's ever present hardships and obstacles to stand before me at this moment, I guarantee you entry into heaven even if you do not attend another church service in your life, as long as you continue living a life a kindness and goodness toward your fellow man!
So...I've got that goin' for me...which is nice! Now...I'm going back to bed!