NOLA Day 1: 2/5/09 – The Flight

I sprinted from work to the airport on Thursday afternoon to meet up with everyone for the flight to New Orleans. We were flying through Houston on Continental (which, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure still existed). The longer leg of the flight was uneventful, but jetting from Houston to New Orleans things became more interesting.

One of the flight attendants asked where we were from and what we were doing down there. I made the comment that some people seemed surprised that there were a bunch of college kids who were going to New Orleans to volunteer rather than to party, and she replied “oh believe me, I know!” A few minutes later she returned to talk to her new do-gooder friends and saw that one of our party was reading from a Bible.

“You’re a Catholic group and you are reading from the Bible? I thought they taught you not to read the Bible.” Oh boy, I thought, as I caught snippets of the conversation from the row behind me. I was too far away to jump in and bail anybody out, but close enough to hear the whole evangelical disaster unfold. “Why do you worship Mary?” she went on to ask. This flight attendant came back with tracts from her church a few times, the last of which was explicitly anti-Catholic and was entitled “Rome vs. the Bible”.

I find that behavior annoying at any time, and I find evangelizing particularly annoying when a person knows that their target is already part of a religious tradition. These tracts compared quotes from the Catechism with quotes from the Bible, a perfect example of the erroneous assumption that Catholics are “Catechism-thumpers” the same way that other groups are “Bible-thumpers”. Catholic theology is all about context. Picking one line out of the 1992 Catechism and ignoring the nearly two millennia of theology that came before it misses the message.

But that’s another homily for another day. It’s enough to mention that airline staff should not be criticizing our religion when we are held captive at 30,000 feet. Another of the attendants was also aggressive, pretending to put my theology textbook in the trash and then demanding to know my age when I told him that the book was “wicked expensive”.

Perhaps most disturbing of the trip was reading an issue of Cosmopolitan that was borrowed from a student. Most magazines are designed to make women crazy – we should gain enough confidence to enjoy the magazine, but enough insecurity to buy another one next month. I can live with that, most of the time, but this issue of Cosmo really took the cake. I knew going into it that Cosmo is filthy, so that wasn’t much of a shock. What perturbed me was that in this issue there was also a long article about all of the different ways women have been killed or hurt while traveling. You can’t on one page encourage young women to get naked and make themselves physically vulnerable to strangers whenever they want and on the next page advocate against driving at night.

I told all of the young women on the trip they weren’t allowed to read that magazine, but I’m not sure they followed my decree. We touched down in New Orleans, rented a few vans, and arrived at Corpus Christi Parish around 11:30.

Next installment…our service day.

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