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I was raised as a Roman Catholic.  And, as a Catholic, I can tell you that there is one place in this world where you absolutely do not want to be.  It is quite possibly the deadliest location in creation, a place of true horrors.  I have visited this place many times and it shakes me to my very soul every time.

I speak, of course, of a Catholic church’s parking lot after mass.

It is amazing how quickly our Christian tendencies skeet right out of us when we’re trying to achieve escape velocity from that expanse of pavement.  People who less than an hour before were holding hands while saying the Apostle’s Creed or giving one another a hearty handshake and a “peace be with you” suddenly jockey for position with more ferocity than Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Talladega.

It is quite a sight to see.

I remember one Sunday in particular.  Our pastor gave a stirring sermon.  He encouraged us to treat our fellow man with compassion, with grace, with understanding.  He told us that no matter how we are treated, we should look beyond their actions and see the soul of the person before us and the grace God gifted to them.  He encouraged us to say to them “bless you.”

As I walked to the parking lot with my family I pondered his words and what they meant to me and my life.  I carefully considered how they could be applied to my day-to-day dealings, and how I could use his commentary to become a better person and a better Christian.

Then we arrived at the parking lot.

We piled into the car and my dad started picking his way through the tangle that it had already become.  Then, suddenly, he was cut off by another driver racing to beat him to the main line of traffic heading out.  It was then I had an epiphany.  An epiphany which my brother must have shared because we said the same thing simultaneously.

“BLESS YOU!!”

Now, we may have followed the letter of the instructions imparted upon us by our pastor, but, in retrospect, we probably were not in the spirit of his remarks.  But, given our location at the time, and the circumstances, it seemed wholly appropriate.  Yes, we turned “bless” into something of a “four-letter word,” but we got our point across, and we did it without any true profanity.  Besides, everyone in the car thought it was funny.

I think God did, too.  That jerk ended up getting cut off himself seconds later.

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