The Beginning of the End of Obligatory Religious Ceremonial Formalities

"Faith is believing in what you know ain't so. If there was an all-powerful God, he would have made all good, and no bad. If there is a God, he's a malign thug." ~ Samuel Clemens (Author, Mark Twain).

I entered back into the good graces of Sunday school after completing my 8th grade at private, Catholic school. After begging my mother for two years to place me back into the public education system, she conceded, and - no longer in a religious environment - I was back to the mundane teachings of mere humans once a week. I guess this would have been when I was 14, in grade 9 at a junior high school that was located down the street from my house. In Nova Scotia, kids attend elementary school (grades 1-6), junior high (grades 7-9), and high school (grades 10-12). Once in high school, the obligation to attend religious teachings of any kind ends as you get confirmed into the Catholic church prior to completing grade 9. And presto! The Catholic church owns you....or something like that.

When Catholic children are in grade 2 they participate in something called their First Communion. This is a traditional ceremony where children experience their first confession, which is then followed by their first experience of taking the Catholic Sacrament of Holy Communion. For those of you unfamiliar with holy communion, it is the ceremonial process where a priest does something called transubstantiation. This very fancy word defines a process in which a priest turns ordinary bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. In turn, Catholics then eat and drink the bread/body and wine/blood during mass. It's a big deal. When you are little, you attend Sunday school to prepare for this event, in part by coloring pictures (as mentioned before). However, when this big day arrives it is viewed as a rite of passage for children in their journey to becoming part of the Catholic church and faith. Little girls often dress up in gowns that look like miniature bridal dresses (with veils) and little boys often dress up in miniature suits (with ties).

As I type this out, I realize how odd this ceremony might sound to someone who is unfamiliar with Christian traditions and practices; however, in grade 2 this was all very exciting. In reality, it was really all that I knew and, because it caused me no harm and because my friends were all taking part in the same things as me, it just made sense. I went to church every Sunday without thinking about it. I went to Catechism classes every Tuesday evening without thinking about those either. It wasn't until I got older that I started to question things and my 14th year was noteworthy in terms of my attempts to critically analyze what I was learning about the Catholic faith. I chose to play out this critical analysis in catechism class, along with my best friend at the time.

We had been best friends since kindergarten where I distinctly remember us playing together in the sandbox. I also clearly remember crying my eyes out every time he wasn't there, which - when we were older - he loved to tease me about. The first time we got into trouble together, we were about eight or nine. I was spending time at his house and my mother came to pick me up and instead of getting ready to leave - as instructed - we took the opportunity to take off on my friend's bike (complete with an awesome yellow banana seat) so that I could stay longer. After calling out to us for over an hour, my mother eventually surrendered to the fact that we were not coming back anytime soon and sat to have tea with the other frustrated mother. If you recall, one of my earlier posts mentions something called foreshadowing - this would be another example. We were great friends who were not the best of influences on one another. My mother was always scared that I would grow up and marry him someday, which - in her opinion - could produce nothing but a possible jail sentence for both of us. In the event that we had ever gone to jail (which we did not), I'm quite certain that we would have found a way to escape together. Our friendship was built on thoughts of escaping that developed late in the night as we lay on cool asphalt under glowing street lights. We understood each other with a depth that still exists today, in our 33rd year, despite the fact that we have not laid eyes upon each other in many years. We were little shits. I am quite sure our catechism teachers thought the same in that grade 9 year.

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