Friday, October 31, 2008

more lessons from grade school

While I was in grade school I learned that differences between boys and girls were important. Boys got the big part of the playground and were allowed to play ball. Girls were not supposed to run and if you wanted to play jump rope you had to wear shorts under your skirt.

Girls sang in the choir and had to have permission to go into the church and were forbidden to go past the altar rail. Boys were altar boys and had the run of the church and even the sacristy. Choir practice for the girls was taught by a nun with nothing but music on her mind. The boys hung out and even played ball with the priests.

When I went to junior high I transferred to a public school. The difference was incredible. My education was way ahead of the kids I now went to school with, but my attitudes and social skills were right out of the Middle Ages.

In junior high I discovered cheerleaders. No, I wasn't one, I was one of the multitude of kids who watched their every movement, toss of the hair, laugh and clothes.
So I discovered that girls could have power too, even more than boys, but there was a cost.

And being outside of my parochial world for the first time, it occurred to me that if anyone not baptized Catholic was destined for was going to be one crowded place.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

storing tidbits away

At the same time that I was being indoctrinated into Catholicism, tiny tidbits of knowledge were being stored away. These would turn into the seeds of a full scale rebellion later in my life.

As a child in parochial school, I was devout. I am not sure exactly what I was devout about, but I was nearly fanatical. Looking back I realize that I felt no attachment whatsoever to the Catholic God, the Holy Trinity. As far as I was concerned he was just another adult who seemed to be mad at something all the time. There were lots of adults around just like him. Keep on his good side, stay out of sight. I wondered how Jesus managed to not piss him off.

I did feel great attachment to the rituals of religion. The Latin Mass was still said everyday and on special days the Latin High Mass was sung. I think if I walked into a Church today and heard a Latin High Mass being sung I would weep with joy.

Believer or not, those are rituals suitable for a God. Latin, candles, incense, incredible music....remind you of any good rituals lately?

hmmm, ANYWAY, I was most certainly taken with the rituals....all of them. Rosaries following the Stations of The Cross, morning Mass before school, learning the hymns by heart. Everyone knew the responses for a Low Mass, but at age 8 I could wend my way through a High Mass unassisted.
I collected Holy Cards. Those were playing card size depictions of Saints, generally full of arrows or swords, sometimes just standing around with a halo. On the back of the card would be interesting information about the Saint and the bloody end that earned them their official Sainthood. Modern child psychologists would have a field day with these.

I fantasized about becoming a nun. Not the kind that taught English and Geography. No, a Carmelite nun. Vows of silence, penance weeding the garden. That stuff. I liked the outfit.

But at age 7 the first crack appeared in the perfection of the Church. I learned that my very best friend, who lived next door, who seemed like a nice person, was going straight to hell. No way around it, no arguing would help. She was not a baptized Catholic and therefore she was going to hell.

I explained this to her and asked her to at least get baptized, we could fake the rest.
She laughed. Laughed! Obviously she did not understand. I appealed to the nuns. I begged my friend. No help from either side.

This was the first tidbit that I stored away.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

starting at the beginning....

I was raised Catholic in a fairly typical post WWII Catholic family. More than two kids, Catholic schools, Mass on Sunday and Holydays. I don't remember my parents as being especially religious, but the Church was definitely part of our lives. We didn't do any of the social stuff, but we never missed Sunday Mass and the Bible and rosaries were present in the house.
I don't recall an especially close relationship with my maternal grandparents, my grandfather died when I was 6 and shortly after we moved far away from where my grandmother lived, but they must have had an influence. They were Irish, first generation American, and I picked up from them a little Celtic lore, mostly banshees and little people. I took this sort of thing to heart, to the dismay of the nuns during my early days in parochial schools, before I learned to shut up.