On Being Catholic: The Mystery of Faith

My 10-year-old son had a play date after school the other day and when the friend’s mom came to pick him up, she asked if we were in a rush to get my guy to CCD.

“A lot of kids seem to go on Tuesdays,” she said.

“Um, we’re taking a break from being Catholic right now,” I told her, and she laughed at my joke, but I still feel really guilty about the whole thing.

It must be the Catholic in me.

I went to a tiny Catholic grammar school – where prayer was a standard part of the day, you went to confession monthly and students always stood when a nun entered the classroom and recited (in sing-song voices), “Good morning/afternoon, Sister _______.”

We celebrated All Saints Day – not Halloween – each year with an all-star parade of saints. My classmates dressed as their heavenly namesakes while I, named not for a biblical sufferer but for a character on a soap opera my mom watched, dressed in the white robes of your standard, run-of-the-mill angel. Oh, to be a Theresa or a Mary.

We wore grey plaid jumpers over short-sleeved, white blouses with Peter Pan collars and didn’t think twice about running around the parking lot out back during recess (no grassy fields for us, no sir, we were told it was our cross to bear) during cold winter months with our bare legs exposed.

Compared to how Christ suffered, you knew you had little to complain about.

I grew up loving the Crowning of Mary each May, the smell of incense that filled the tiny church next to our school as the altar boy waved the lantern during mass and of course, I always looked forward to the cock crowing as we sat on the church’s wooden pews enduring the endless stations of the cross during Lent, trying to suppress yawns and then briefly uncontrollable laughter. Who knew the Bible could be so dirty?

While there were many things I was not sure of during that time – when my parents’ divorce turned my small world upside down – going to Catholic school provided many things I could bank on, like the 10 Commandments and the Holy Spirit. You knew they weren’t going anywhere.

We knew the seven deadly sins by heart, along with the beatitudes and the Act of Contrition and believed, inside and out, that Jesus had died for our sins.

Next to that, the other thing we knew – beyond a shadow of a doubt – was that CCD Kids were heathens.

They were the kids who went to the public school in town who would use our classrooms after school a few days a week for their religious education classes. We’d return the next day to find the insides of our desks in disarray and trash on the floor. Any time something turned up broken or not working, we’d know whom to blame.

"CCD Kids,” we’d mutter.

Many years later, I found myself the parent of not one but three CCD Kids. Kids who couldn’t tell me a single commandment or holy day of obligation if their lives depended on it, and who would ask me, on numerous occasions, as we waited on line to receive communion, “What do I say again?”

Really? How hard is it to remember, “Amen”?

I probably spent over a dozen years shuttling those three kids back and forth to their weekly religious education classes and then dragging them, kicking and screaming, to mass each Sunday (or to the quicker Saturday night 5-o’clocker if we could swing it). I would make sure to sit in between troublemakers and was not above giving a good pinch if someone was having impulse control issues or a hairy eyeball to someone who thought they’d take it easy and sit when it was time to kneel.

And what was the result of this herculean effort? Well, of course three confirmed soldiers of Christ who can now go on to receive the sacrament of marriage in the church while the flame of the Holy Spirit burns within them.

I also have three kids who really don’t know the first thing about their faith, which might have a lot more to do with the lack of instruction on the home front than what they were taught by all the good souls who volunteered each week at CCD.

Basically, they’re heathens.

So last year, after missing the deadline to sign Kid #4 up for CCD and lacking the energy to suck up to the fairly frightening woman who runs the religious education program for our parish (think the terrifying headmistress in Matilda), I just did nothing.

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