The Sunday Fool.

Posted by admin on January 20, 2012 in Religion |

It may be hard to believe, but I was once a good little Catholic boy. In my youth, I would even come home from church and perform Mass. I had a small book that had all the Latin prayers and passages, and I would lay a bathroom towel over the organ bench, make communion wafers with Wonder Bread and the rim of an Alka Seltzer bottle as the die and conduct High Mass.

I know, really dorky. With all that love of church you’d assume I would have become a priest. And yet, I am about the farthest from that possibility, given the life I have chose to lead and the possibility that I have lived such a questionable life that I may end up with box seats on the 50 yard line of eternal Hell (Go Devils!)

I was never very good at organized religion. I know this because of my performance in Sunday school, or more appropriately, CCD. This stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, or Catechism, for you pagans, uh, Protestants.

Being from a good Catholic family who at one time had made our way to the third row right pews of St. Anthony’s (we would later make our way to the back of the church and eventually out the door), it was inevitable that we would be delivered to God School after Mass.

I was in good company. My brothers had to go, too, and there were a couple of kids in the class with me who I knew from public school.

St. Anthony’s was hardly a poor parish, yet we sat in wooden and wrought iron desks that still had the hole for the ink well. It should not be surprising that I found the ink well fascinating, not being able to leave me alone. Eventually, I would get in trouble for this, as I was paying more attention to it than my lesson about temptation in the Garden of Eden.

Sister Mary Margaret seemed to take delight in catching me in the act. Either I was seeing if I could get my hand stuck in the ink well or I was doodling when I was supposed to be reciting the Stations of the Cross. Sister had a pair of those really stealthy nun shoes so she could always sneak up behind you undetected.

I was only made aware of her presence by the rap on my ink well bound knuckles with her ever present yardstick. I swear that yardstick could reach halfway across the room and strike at any time like a rattlesnake. After several transgressions, I was inevitably sent up to the front of the class. There, waiting for anyone who was not a good soldier of God was a tall stool.

“Get on the stool, Robert,” she said admonishingly. “I will be letting your parents know about this.”

I didn’t really mind the stool. It afforded a me good view of the class and it didn’t come with a dunce cap, at least one that I could remember. I visited the stool many times that year, largely because I didn’t seem to be a very good Catholic. I know this to be a fact because in 4th grade, I got a C+ in religion and a C+ in effort.

And that was a year I actually even enjoyed. Jodie was my teacher and we did a pageant that year for Christmas. The theme was always set, of course, the Nativity. I didn’t get the lead. Some other kid played Joseph. Instead, I was one of the Seven Wisemen. I know there were only three, but we had more kids than parts.

I was the Wiseman from Hawaii. I bet you didn’t know there was one. It’s only because we had to supply our own costuming and I had a straw hat and a lei from the school carnival. So Jodie let me roll with my tropical interpretation for this walk-on role. That’s exactly what it was. The three real Wisemen walked on with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I was withoug gifts for the newborn Savior. I guess baby Jesus could have choked on macadamia nuts.

Even with my performance as Wiseman #6, I got a C+. I’m sure Joseph got an A. Oh, well. I didn’t really care much for CCD after that. I knew I wasn’t a very good Catholic by then. When it came time to go to Confession, I would torture long and hard about what to say to the priest. I knew the “Bless me father for I have sinned” part, but coming up with sins that I thought were worth the priest’s – and God’s – time was really hard. I couldn’t just use the same ones over and over again. He would know that I wasn’t sincere and I’d end up with even more Our Fathers and Hail Marys to say. So I would think up some pretty original ones, Venial doozies that bordered on unforgivable Mortal sins.

It didn’t work very well. The priest knew I was making stuff up. After listening to people confess to coveting their neighbor’s wife and using God’s name in vain all day, mine must have seemed a bit pedestrian, even though in my young mind they were fantastic, well worthy of God’s forgiveness and the priest’s ear. It didn’t even occur to me that I was lying to a priest in confession – a sin which I could have really used at the time.

At one point, I really did think I was getting the hang of this Catholic thing. My parents even enrolled Jeff, Brian and I in summer school. They told us it was an honor to be called to go to summer CCD and to surrender our only three months of freedom to become closer to God.

Our incarceration was blessfully short, however. My mother quickly tired of making lunches for us three boys during the summer so my father suggested that he give us money instead to go to Dag’s, which was about a block and a half from the school. Every day, while the other kids ate their lackluster sack lunches, we feasted on sinfully delicious Dag’s burgers, fries and shakes.

Mother Superior caught onto our disappearing act and would have nothing of it. My parents were summoned to the school to let us know this was unacceptable. This was never a good thing… for the school, that is. My parents had little patience for anyone telling them how to raise their children so we were instantly pulled out of school.

We never went back, not for the summer or for Sundays. I sometimes wonder, though, who suffered Sister Mary Margaret’s wrath once I was gone. And I wonder what happened to that picture I had in my desk of her, drawing her yardstick from a scabbard like she was on a crusade to save my unworthy soul from eternal damnation and cheat me out of those seats on the 50-yard line of the Devils games.

Out on the Treasure Coast, unintentionally genuflecting because my bum knee suddenly gave out,

– Robb

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