DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have never been so humiliated in my life as I was at the funeral of an elderly lady who befriended me 30 years ago.
I was a single mother with no family close by, and she and her husband (who passed away several years ago) "adopted" my then-3-year-old daughter, taking her to the circus, movies and really treating her as their grandchild. We kept in touch through the years, and, when she passed away, my daughter and I attended her funeral.
We are not of her faith, and I was always taught when attending a funeral not of my religion, I should remain seated when the congregation is called upon to stand or kneel and to remain silent when the congregation is called upon to respond. I was taught this was being respectful to other people's religion.
But my daughter and I were singled out by the officiating clergy who stopped the services to ask us why we were not participating. I gave him the same explanation I just gave you, and he was livid. He accused us of not only being disrespectful to the deceased's religion, but to the deceased and her family. My daughter and I were mortified, so we participated during the remainder of the services under his watchful eye, however we left immediately afterward and did not attend the services at the cemetery.
Please let me know the proper etiquette for attending a funeral, or even a wedding, of someone not of my faith. I am in my mid-50s and my daughter in her 30s. I have attended countless funerals, and this is the first time something like this has ever happened, and I don't want it to happen again. If times have changed and religions have relaxed to the point of a non-parishioner being expected to participate, I need to know.
GENTLE READER: You do know what to do. It is the clergyman who knows as little about the practice of religion as he does about its meaning.
Humiliating people into participating in the practice of religions to which they do not subscribe is not what religions tend to preach. But beyond that, it trivializes the religion, suggesting that holding its beliefs is unnecessary as long as one goes through the motions.
Coincidentally, at the same time that Miss Manners received your letter, a lady of her acquaintance was being roundly chastised for exactly what your rude clergyman commanded. In the emotion of a funeral and a with a predilection for ecumenism, she took Communion although not a Catholic. Her intention was exactly to show respect for the dead and his religion.
Not the right way to go about it, as a great number of people pointed out more or less vehemently, as doing so presupposes sharing all of the Catholic beliefs concerning Communion. But Miss Manners was gratified to hear that the clergy involved considered the matter with an understanding attitude that did honor to their religion.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What on earth are "peptone high heels?" I have never heard the term and cannot find anything on the Internet.
GENTLE READER-- Some time ago, Miss Manners expressed equal amazement at being told about an item of jewelry called a "love altar." Numerous Gentle Readers came forward to tell her that what was meant was something well known to her as a lavaliere.
So in the spirit of deciphering garbled terms, she will now venture to guess that peptone high heels are what used to be called open-toed shoes but have lately been given the coyer designation "peep toe" shoes.