I am writing this book with the insight from my teaching experience in public and most recently in the private Catholic school system. I have learned that you have to love what you do and if you can laugh while you do it, that is all the better. Enjoy and I would love your feedback.
CHAPTER 1 – Born this way
Being Catholic all of my life, I have gone to church every Sunday. All good Catholics of course will always say this, but I will admit that I have taken some Sundays off. Well now I may have to confess this at true confession since I have made this truth available. Growing up, if we ever dared ask of we HAD to go to church, well let’s say I never chose to take that step. Since kids cannot drive and we lived not a walking distance from our church, St. Joan of Arc, we were at our dad’s call for when we were going to attend weekly mass. My dad usually chose that we went to Saturday evening mass. Growing up in Ohio, this was a good call in the winter. We wanted to get out of the house when it was cold and snowy, but then came spring and summer. We loved playing outside so when 4:00 came around, the 4:30 Saturday mass was calling. We were usually in the middle of a baseball game or a tennis match. We had three to five good hours of sunlight left. Do we have to go tonight? Can’t we go on Sunday morning? Nope. I look back on this now and it never occurred to me until now why my dad chose Saturday nights to go to mass. First, what do people want to do after mass? Eat! In the Catholic church you are to refrain from eating approximately an hour before you go to communion before you receive communion. So if you have not eaten anything before mass and you are only offered the wafer and a sip of wine you are usually famished after mass. God forbid if anyone go without food for two whole hours! So as I stated, we were always “starving” after mass and my dad loved to take us to restaurants to eat a good and good priced family meal. I’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dog. I go to mass and then I am famished. Secondly, we went to mass on Saturday evening because my dad was a workout fanatic and he had to go to his Sunday morning workout. Why did he have to go on Sunday morning when he had the entire day off? He liked to go in the mornings on Sunday because my mom made a large Sunday meal that we ate when he returned from his workout! It’s all so clear to me now, I had to give up my “workout” time on Saturday afternoons so that he could do his Sunday workout in the morning. He worked out all week after his long work hours, we kids went to school all week and our Saturdays, until 4:00, was our day off. Would I suggest today to do this differently? No, first I would still never suggest when I wanted to go to church with my dad, he still has a schedule at 85 years old and he is pretty set in his way and secondly, I loved those meals!
Religion is a habit. All habits are not bad. Habits can be good. Our Saturday habit of interrupting my outside time used to really irk me. I wanted to stay outside. I wanted to skip church just one time. Of course, once I chickened out to protest to going on Saturday, I was content in church and after I was starving so off we all went to dinner. Also I didn’t want to take that chance that if I did not go to mass every weekend I would end up in the Fires of Hell. That place is a real place in the church going life of a true Catholic.
What do you think is the largest habit in church? The Catholic Church contains many good habits. We genuflect always before sitting down to habitually kneeling to say a prayer before we actually sit before the mass begins. Our masses follow a repetitive manner. As a young person it was almost hypnotic to me at times.
What is really the biggest habit that all church goers adhere to? We sit in the same section of church week after week after week. At St. Joan of Arc we always sat as a family in the east section of the cross shaped church. We always chose a middle row. We never sat in the very front row and God forbid if we dared to try to sit in the last row. It was never said out loud but the front row was for showy people who wanted to proclaim, “Hey look, we are here at church in the front row. We need to sit closer so that we can be seen and see everything clearly. Oh and look at our clothes that we chose to wear to church!”. Ok, so this is my own self thinking of what the front row sitters are thinking. To this day I think this when I am at mass. Confession for that thought!! When I now go back to Ohio and I go to church with my dad who still chooses at what time we will attend mass, we now sit in the front row! First “we” now choose to go on Sunday mornings because we no longer workout on Sunday mornings. Retirement did that, workouts can happen at leisure now. We now have to sit in the front row because the church acoustics are not good. It truly has nothing to do with the need to always wear our hearing aides. Oh, and the priest talks too fast or the priest has an accent and that accent does not carry well past that front row.
Sitting in that front row is excruciating for me. What are the people thinking as we boldly walk all the way up to the front of the church to take our front row pew seats? Are they looking at my clothes that I chose to wear? Is this what a catwalk feels like? Is everyone up on that altar looking at us?
There is one thing that is good about sitting in the front row. Actually now that I think about it, there are two good things. First, you get to see everyone’s shoes clearly. You can see everyone’s shoes up on the altar and you get to view the shoe parade during communion. Go to communion, communion prayer, shoe parade. Do you know that a lot of priests wear *tennis shoes and or sandals during mass? As kids we always had to wear our good shoes to church. I always believed that God didn’t care about your shoeage. He was glad to simply see your presence in his church. See I was right. The priests know this.
The second good thing that I realized about the accolades of sitting in the Front Pew is that at communion if you choose to drink from the chalice to receive the Blood of Christ, you get to drink first before everyone in that church drinks from that same cup. If you are in the front during flu season being the first cup receiver is a win. I’m sorry that this concept of drinking after EVERY person attending mass has always stopped me from drinking the wine that is now the Blood of Christ. I’m really not a germaphobe, but I couldn’t and still cannot follow all of the drinkers drinking out of that one cup. Just so you know, I haven’t had the flu for at least twenty years so I am correct on how those flu viruses are truly moving through populations every season. I know what you are now thinking. Its not foregoing drinking the wine at mass that is preventing me from getting the flu but she must get the yearly flu shot. Nope. Nada. No. The only two years that I did get the flu shot did I succumb to the flu virus. My thesis is correct. The flu virus is spread by sharing the same drinking cup with many people who you are not related to who go to church even when they have the flu. These people have to go to mass even though they are sick to make sure that they will not be punished in those fires of hell. So now we have learned that the front row has some perks. Also if you do sit in the front pew you can now receive and also be healthy.
*Tennis shoes are what we in Northeast Ohio call what you in the South call sneakers and or gym shoes. Does everyone in NE Ohio play tennis? I did,but now that I think about calling my Nikes this all of the time seems silly. I have played basketball, dodge ball, and even tag in those so called TENNIS shoes. You learn things everywhere you may go!