By John Rice
It hasn't been easy being a hippie all these years. While many of my contemporaries have conformed to society, I'm forever fighting "the man." I'm still battling at the cultural barricades. I was feeling especially hippie-like recently because the St. Ignatius Class of 1972 was celebrating its reunion. As a member of the committee, I wrote the "Dear Classmate" letter and tracked down the missing alumni.
I was also chosen to do the second reading at our reunion Mass. As much as I enjoy mingling with my old friends at the banquet, the Mass has always been the highlight for me. It gives meaning to the proceedings, rather than just being another excuse to party. However, the night before the Mass, my hippie nature took hold.
I wasn't going to read from the Bible. I was going to do a reading in the spirit of 1972. Back then, the priests gave us great latitude at our Masses. We could play music by Led Zeppelin and Buffalo Springfield. We could substitute rock lyrics for scripture. Our favorite source was the album Aqualung. The album described how organized religion was killing Christianity, which is how many of us felt.
Some of the lyrics are extremely caustic toward religious leaders, so I chose uplifting ones. I pictured delivering them from the podium of our cozy chapel. It would bring deep meaning to the Mass and my classmates would really appreciate the message.
When I arrived for the reunion, I learned the Mass was going to include other classes and be held in Holy Family Church. As I entered this massive glittering cathedral, I was having second thoughts. I approached the lectern and informed the organizer of my plans. To say he looked at me funny would be an understatement.
He implored me to stick to the plan and read from St. Paul and I reluctantly agreed. Once again, I was losing to "the man." Sitting in the pew waiting my turn, I read the words Paul wrote to the Philippians. "Brothers and sisters: I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and being in need." Non-materialism: that's the hippie gospel at its core.
Then I thought of Paul. He definitely had some hippie credentials. He was well-educated and grew up in comfort. He was steeped in religion but, in later life, rejected religious orthodoxy and attacked its leaders — sometimes literally. When he wasn't speaking out at the temple, he made his living as a tent-maker — a hippie trade for sure.
So when I rose to deliver his words, I didn't feel like I was completely selling out. But I'll always wonder what the reaction would have been had I delivered my message from the counter-culture days:
"These are the words of the prophet, Ian Anderson, from the fourth album of Jethro Tull, side two. 'People what have you done? Locked Him in a golden cage. Made Him bend to your religion. Him resurrected from the grave. He is the God of nothing, if that is all you can see. You're the God of everything. He's inside you and me. I saw Him in the city and on the mountains of the moon. Lord Jesus save us! And the Lord said, I'm not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.'"
That last part was certainly true. Our mass was on a Saturday.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.