Whenever I hear the phrase “Born on the 4th of July,” it reminds me of my own special birth mantra: Born on Good Friday.
As a child, I was often reminded by my Catholic maternal grandmother, who raised me and raised me up, that because of my Good Friday birthday, I was forever blessed.
As Friday’s child, she would tell me that I was loving and giving because this was my destiny.
She also believed that as a Good Friday child, I would be forever protected because Jesus gave His life that day so that all may live.
Ironically enough, as a young child growing up in the slums of Bridgeport, Connecticut, I didn’t feel protected or blessed at all.
Heck, I wasn’t even born Catholic. I was baptized Greek Orthodox at birth and was subsequently baptized Catholic at age six in order to attend first grade at St. Ambrose Catholic School. My entire public school kindergarten memory is filled with bullies and getting beat up every day—totally and wholly unprotected. Being baptized Catholic created for me a glimmer of hope that my bullying days would finally be over, although that’s not how it went down.
I spent the next 24 years as a practicing Catholic until, at age 31, I converted to Judaism, a nerve-wracking decision that caused a stir in my Catholic family.
The stir did not include my grandmother — she died at age 64 when I was 30 years old and one year before I converted. (Yes, you’re reading our age difference correctly.)
Had my grandmother lived, I would have never converted to Judaism because my final decision to walk away from my religion was based on an unfortunate decision a Catholic priest made — denying her of her Last Rites. And although I converted, I was never able to denounce my Catholic beliefs.
The great religious celebrations of Easter and Passover are very special and significant for me this year because the first evening of Passover coincides with the solemn Christian commemoration of Good Friday.
I feel incredibly pious and faithful because what this convergence means for me is that the celebration of the Catholic Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) will be aligned with the Jewish Passover feast.
If you check the Jewish calendar, Jesus died on April 3, 33, which is also the date of Good Friday this year. And based on my research, the last time that the Roman calendar, the Jewish calendar, and the Western Liturgical calendar coincided was in 1863.
And since Passover starts every year on the 15th day of Nissan, and the Hebrew months are based on a lunar (moon) cycle, the first night of Passover, when Jews sit down to their Passover Seder, is always a full moon.
But the coincidence and confluence that makes this occasion so very special and blessed for me is that my birthday is April 3, and this is the first time it has fallen on Good Friday since the year I was born.
My grandmother waited and waited for Good Friday to fall on my birthday again, but it never did. And after she died, I waited and waited for Good Friday to fall on April 3 again, in the hopes of some sort of karmic connection, but it never did.
How utterly thrilled and moved I was when I discovered that not only was my birthday going to fall on Good Friday this year but also that it would fall on the first night of Passover.
So when I say my prayers on Good Friday and the first night of Passover, April 3rd, as an ex-Catholic and practicing Jew, and gaze upon the radiance and splendor of the full moon, I will fondly remember my grandmother and hope that her spirit will be all around me, blessing and protecting, just like she always did in life.