A 1950s-60s Catholic school upbringing is like Superglue. It really sticks.
(Sister Adolfa, wherever you are, please notice my clever use of simile. … Yes, Str, I know the difference between a simile and a metaphor. I’m a writer.)
Okay. I’m not going to walk up to a priest or a nun, say “Good morning, Father” or “Good morning, Sister” and offer to carry whatever the consecrated human is toting around that day. I already carry the heaviest handbag in the western world, and I’m not going to carry someone else’s stuff, too. Besides, it’s easier just to wave and say, “Hey, Father Bill, how ya doin’?” and walk away.
(I’m sorry … SIS-ter. A simile is an indirect comparison, using the words “like” or “as.” A metaphor is a direct comparison, where the writer states that something is something else. I wrote that a 1950s Catholic school upbringing is LIKE Superglue. That’s a simile.)
Where was I? Oh, yes.
Catholic school wouldn’t have been as bad if it weren’t for the Baltimore Catechism. This was a brainwashing device right out of a 1950s Cold War movie. The whole thing was in the form of questions and answers, and it took great, cosmic ideas that theologians are STILL pondering after thousands of years and whittled them down into short sentences that kids could memorize by rote. We were told that these would help us defend our faith against the attacks of atheists, heathens and Protestants, but that was a lie. They were actually designed to hammer ideas so securely into our brains that we would never be able to dig them out.
(Um … excuse me, Sister? Of course, I remember what I learned in religion class. You all repeated it so much we couldn’t forget if we wanted to. … Oh, Okay. “God made me to show forth His goodness and to make me happy with Him in heaven.” Right?)
Sister Adolfa and her pop quizzes!
Anyway, the Baltimore Catechism didn’t just have questions and answers. It had illustrations. They weren’t very good. In fact, they looked like a kid under the influence of mimeograph ink drew them. But they got their ideas across. I will never forget the picture of the guy standing waist-deep in the fire of hell because he died after having committed a mortal sin. Every day we were warned that we could end up there if we were not careful, because it was SO easy to slip into mortal sin. If you then died before you could get to confession, you would be barbecuing with the Devil faster than you could say, “Help!”
(What was that, Sister Adolfa? Do I realize that you are dead? Well, I figured as much. … Yes, I know that conjuring the dead is a mortal sin. I didn’t figure you were actually going to show up, so I didn’t really conjure you. You just popped up.)
My idea in writing this is to show how that 1950s-60s religious upbringing stays in us, even if only a residue remains.
(No, I am not preaching heresy! … What? … O, shut up, you old banshee!)
Two days later:
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I called my high school English teacher an old banshee … .
*The name has been changed to protect the innocent – ME.