Last night at dinner, this woman walked around the corner and stunned me by how much she looked like my mother. I was fascinated by her cheekbones and overall facial structure. It took me a moment to realize it couldn’t be her. It got me wondering about the similarities of cultures in Europe; mom being Italian. Is it possible her face has been out this way, shared by so many for thousands of years?

This morning, I got picked up for a tour at my hotel. The next 2 people picked up were 2 Irish women. Too bad we wound up on separate tours because we made quick friends at the station. They were super friendly but very ” don’t fuck with me” as that is what drew them to me. The guide asked me the same question 3 times hoping for a different answer and I answered exactly the same all three times because it was annoying. They immediately found common ground and introduced themselves. They also kept asking him questions to ensure he didn’t screw them over or make off with their Hard Rock coupon. This personality I have is far from random. It’s Irish and immediately identifiable when around real Irish people. So how many generations of my family have carried this with them? It’s in my DNA. I’m the nicest person in the world but very skeptical and quick to lash out if I think you are fucking with me. A little English vs. Irish, Protestant vs. Catholic, Belfast and car bombs, Sinn Fein, IRA. Same exact feeling I had while traveling Ireland 10 years ago. I felt like I had known those people my entire life and that I finally fit in somewhere. I suppose I could just move to Southie and solve for that.

I went to Fátima today which my religious friends know a ton about. We were taught about it in CCD and Catholic school. It’s actually kind of an honor to be able to say I have been there. As you know, religion is quite difficult for me, spirituality is more my thing. I had no intention of attending mass but then changed my mind. How could I not go to church at the Our Lady of Fátima location? It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and reunites me to a common bond I have with my dearest high school friends.

I made it 25 minutes, not because I couldn’t follow along in Portuguese…. I actually knew every step regardless of language because church is in me. It’s that all the people in there are united in this religion. We are all from different countries, speaking different languages but our experience with the church exactly the same.

Except that tourists kept popping in to see what was going on, as if you don’t know what mass sounds like. They would do the sign of the cross with holy water so they knew but then they’d pop out just as quickly. A bunch of people came in late which I found very disrespectful and one man carried on a loud cell phone conversation just outside the open door. The people a few pews in front of me had just tried pushing ahead to get off the bus rather than let the people in front of them get off first. One person pushed me. Several people coughed and sneezed without covering their mouths. Many people on the bus kept talking when the guide asked them not to as it distracted her while switching back and forth across five languages. And yet, shouldn’t we all be courteous as I know that is what we were ALL taught by the church? How can we behave so wretchedly towards each other and have this religion in common? Have we not all been listening all these years or is it selective to serve our needs?

I was also looking around wondering who might be divorced and being judged by a peer of the same upbringing. Who drinks too much, like me, and gets judged by those who drink little? By the way alcohol judges, they sell plenty of alcohol in Fátima along with Rosaries and crosses so you need to settle down. They have bars across the street from the church. What an odd place for a vacation. Creepy almost. Anyway, who in the church is hiding their sexuality for fear of being judged by the person sitting next to them when a large amount of the holy people are pedophiles?

So I got mad and left 25 minutes in because every single one of us is an asshole. Every self righteous one of us. We have this powerful religion and its teachings in common and we believe 45 minutes a week in church absolves us of pushing people off buses or creating societal conditions where gay teens commit suicide. You are not better than me just because you say “golly” instead of “fuck” or only drink wine on special occasions. You just hide your evil better and believe your own heresy. I let mine out in the open so others know I truly am a safe place, even though I don’t go to church. I practice my religion better than you. I believe in a greater love than you will ever experience.

Every time I travel I am drawn to churches built thousands of years ago. Regardless of current events and beliefs, people many centuries ago believed so brutally they dedicated their lives to painstaking, perfectionist erecting of these holy structures. I have always had a hard time believing the Bible and always felt it a self serving book written by the politicians of their time. But I thought for a second today ” what if it’s all true?” Then i will be joined in Hell by many people who somehow believe they won’t also be there. Or, are we so gullible we carry naïveté on our heads the way African women carry pots of water and food on their heads to their villages because it’s just what needs to be done? Either way, I don’t think a good answer befalls either side.

Heading into Fátima, I wondered if I might experience a miracle. After all, if 3 Shepard children were approached by the Lady of Fátima and asked for a miracle so they could prove to the villagers, police and journalists they weren’t crazy, it didn’t hurt to ask. Just as I was hearing back to the bus I nearly ran into a woman wearing a rain hat. It was the woman I saw in Lisbon last night who looks like my beautiful, Italian mom.

PS. Forgive my sanctimony. I must admit, I bought 2 new rosaries which match my living room. It can’t hurt.