Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing # 5

Standard

june2016 441

The writing prompt I’m using today comes from Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg. She asks, “What religion were you brought up with?”

I was raised in the Catholic faith. We went to church every Sunday and abstained from meat on Friday. We always gave up something for Lent. The sacraments were an integral part of our lives. Babies were baptized, all of the girls sharing the same flowing white baptismal dress right up until Darla, the seventh baby girl in our family, died in infancy and was buried in it. When Amy came along, she had to have a new dress. We practiced for our first Holy Communion, with discs of white bread flattened to resemble the host. We studied for out Confirmation, and took great care in choosing a saint for our confirmation name.

We all went to parochial school. Bishop Kelley School was the only choice in our small town, and it only went through the eighth grade. If we were to continue in Catholic school for high school, the boarding school at the convent in Oxford was the nearest option. A few of us considered it, in those pre-pubescent years when we imagined we wanted to go into the sisterhood, but in the end we all stayed at home and went to public high school.

When I think of it now, it was amazing that my parents managed to send all of us to Bishop Kelley. At some time that I was attending, I knew that there was a ninety dollar per-year, per-family fee, plus so much for each child. In the 1950s and early 1960s, that was a huge sum, for something that could be had for free. It speaks to me of my parent’s commitment to the church, and to the education of their children. They were never very vocal on either of these topics, but they obviously made them a priority.

Attending Bishop Kelley School, we started each day at the Immaculate Conception Church, for mass. Each class sat in a group with the teacher. When mass was finished, we walked back across the road to the school, to begin out classes. Religion class was a part of our daily curriculum, as well as history, geography, arithmetic, handwriting, phonics, English, spelling and reading. When I see that schools often cover all of those last five subjects in one “language arts” class, I know we received a superior education!

In our family, we attended mass every Sunday, said grace before meals and prayers before bed. My mother was a member of the St. Jude Circle, and went to regular meetings. We attended Catholic school. For the years we were in Bishop Kelley, we usually went to church for massĀ six days a week! Beyond that, there were Stations of the Cross, rosaries and devotionals in the various seasons. We went to evening catechism classes through our high school years. Still, the Catholic faith always seemed to easily fit around our lives.

 

Timeout for Art: Not Much

Standard

sketch

Another week gone by with no time in the studio.

Another week with not much to show for it, in the way of art practice.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Though my participation in most rituals of the Catholic Church have fallen by the wayside, I like Lent. Just like the start of a new year, or the milestone of a birthday, the beginning of Lent offers another chance for improvement, renewal or a fresh start. It comes right about the time I have disappointed myself with mostĀ  of my New Year’s resolutions, so it gives me an opportunity to redeem myself in some small way.

I thought of giving up all sweets (oh, NO!), or just chocolate (but I just opened the second package of wonderful chocolate truffles that I received at Christmas), or bread (but I just bought that nice loaf of sourdough). I thought of giving up swearing or drinking, but I don’t really do enough of either to make it a true sacrifice. I thought of adding something that would do me good, like exercise or meditation. I thought of committing to doing something for others, like writing a thoughtful letter each day to people who would appreciate it, or some other form of good deed. Nothing really struck me as a winning commitment.

This morning, at my messy desk with a cup of coffee and a glass of water, as I rushed to sketch the scene in front of me so that I’d have something to publish here, I decided. I am going to make a sketch every day. I won’t say “drawing” because that implies a finished work, and a level of time and energy that I may not have. A sketch every day – for Lent – is a reasonable thing.

Back in Time

Standard

Image

My youngest sister, Amy, and her husband, Dennis, raised four beautiful daughters in their blended family.

Two of those girls are getting married this Fall.

I traveled last weekend back to my hometown for the first of these weddings.

Lapeer, Michigan.

Immaculate Conception Church.

It’s October. Of course there were ghosts.

Ghosts, in the form of memories and feelings and deja vu moments.

Immaculate Conception Church sits on the main street downtown, just a couple blocks from the business district, and next to Bishop Kelley Catholic School, where I attended first through eighth grade. Every school day started at the church, for morning Mass.

The church has changed over the years.

I’m old enough to remember when the Mass was said in Latin. I can still recite some of the prayers, and I still think “et cum spiri tu tuo” has a nicer ring to it than the modern, “and with your spirit”. The altar faced the back wall, then, and most of the Mass was said with the priest facing the altar, away from the congregation. A long communion rail divided the altar from the rest of the church. I made my First Communion kneeling on the velvet covered bench at that rail.

Though marbles were strictly forbidden at school, we brought them anyway. For secret games of “Odd, Even or Nothing” or for trading on the way to school, or elaborate games with the public school kids while we waited for the bus. Once, during the quietest, most solemn part of the Mass, the clasp on my clutch purse gave way, allowing one hundred and twenty marbles to spill out, bounce onto the bench and floor, and roll out in every direction. Every student turned to look. The peaceful expression of a nun at prayer changed to the scowl of a predatory bird. Even the priest turned to see what the noise was. Still, it may not have been completely clear that I was the cause of the ruckus…except for my best friend collapsing in giggles beside me, as I turned fifty shades of red.

Once, when Mom was indisposed, having just had a new baby, Dad brought us to church. We were a bit late in arriving, so stood in the side aisle. My sister, Brenda, and I – oblivious to our surroundings – were deep in whispered conversation when Dad poked us. Startled, we looked back at him. He was agitated, whispering angrily, gesturing wildly toward the front of the church. “Oh!” we thought – in unison – “Did we miss something? Were we supposed to go to the front?” And we proceeded to walk up the aisle to the front of the church…where we realized our mistake. The ride home that day was filled with my father’s loud voice accompanied by exasperated head shakes about how we talked as if nothing was going on and didn’t pay attention or help with the little kids and when he told us to look to the front, we walked to the front…

When President Kennedy was shot, we all left our classes and walked to the church to pray. It was there that we learned he had died.

Death was not a stranger to us. When a person died without family or friends to pray for them, the kids from Bishop Kelley School were gathered in the church – like paid mourners – to attend the funeral and pray for the deceased.

Our family has had its share of funerals there. I was twelve, I think, when my baby sister, Darla, died. I kept my eyes on my mother, one pew ahead. Though her back was bent, her head bowed and her shoulders quaked with her sobs, Mom was the best anchor I had in this strange new world of grief.

We’ve had a few weddings at Immaculate Conception.

My Dad walked me down the aisle there, dressed in his suit and tie, with a flask in his pocket as security against his nervousness. He pulled it out, on the church steps after the ceremony, to offer the priest a swig.

Of all my sisters married in that church, Sheila’s wedding was the most memorable. She wore the dress and veil I’d been married in. Dad walked her up the aisle. When Sheila let go of his arm to walk, with her future husband, up onto the high altar, Dad’s foot was on the end of the fabric train behind her. The entire church gasped. Sheila stepped up. The six hook and eyes that secured the train to the waistline at the back of the dress gave way. The train dropped to the floor. My father – I will never forget the look of near panic on his face – picked up the fabric, hung it over the pew in front of my mother…and went to sit on the groom’s side of the church. This was only one in a whole unbelievable string of unfortunate events that made Sheila’s wedding a legend in our family. We were still reminiscing – and giggling – about it last weekend!

My friend, Linda, was married there. I – eight months pregnant and dominating every picture with my large belly – stood up with her.

My daughter, Jennifer, was baptized there, with my parents acting as her godparents.

The church has had several remodels. The confessionals – there used to be two – are reduced to one, with a real door instead of the velvet curtain from my childhood. Cameras, facing the altar, perch on top of the small room. The stations of the cross have been given a bright new paint job; the pillars have the look of marble; gold and aqua patterns adorn the ceiling over the altar.

The stained glass windows remain the same. On the left, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove; on the right, the Lamb of God, both surrounded by sun rays and bordered with gray clouds. Leaf shapes and fleur-de-lis patterns in shades of gold and red and green fill the smaller surrounding panels. So many memories bask in the filtered light from those windows!

Last weekend, we added a few more.