© Copyright 2019. UnderstandingXYZ.com,  All rights reserved.
Old Anima
Growing up in a blue-collar, mostly Catholic, close-knit neighborhood where everyone knew everyone took on an aura and profoundness that shaped me deeply. We lived on the same street that housed the convent, rectory and elementary school under the umbrella of St. Francis of Assisi and the good pastor in charge of it all, Monsignor Valenti, a very odd figure, in my mind, but a true priest by way of the honorable version of Catholicism. He would be considered a rare and extraordinarily moral and celibate bird today. One of his repeatable quotations was a slightly misquoted version of Ben Franklin’s “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” When he was brought in to distribute all the report cards to the students of St. Francis elementary school, which I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade, the monsignor would always replace the first “early” to “late,” causing great confusion in my mind. Then he would clap his hands together in front of his pursed lips, making an echo sound that gave him some sort of inner satisfaction that also confused me greatly. The large, orange/red brick convent parked itself almost directly across the street from us, an imposing structure that had a strangeness to it primarily because we typically were never let further inside than the foyer, as this awkward place was the private sanctuary for our good nuns. The elementary school and rectory — also of the same brick — located only four houses down from our home — stood out from everything else on the street. A newly built church towered behind the elementary school and rectory, the combination of these two being the centerpiece that straddled the expansive parking lots and school yards on both sides of this Catholic compound. The church’s most astonishing feature — its tall, surrounding stained- glass windows — offered snippets of the life of St. Francis of Assisi in angled glass shapes of varied sizes and colors. When the light shined through, creating a hallowed presence, I felt pious. The captivating windows spoke of the wonders of perhaps the world’s most popular saint who gave away all his inherited riches to help those less fortunate than himself. A holy man who walked with lepers . . . At the front of the church a towering crucifixion of Christ in light-tan colored, shiny plaster (marble like) bore down on all who entered, captivating the entire church with a clear view from every pew. A regal space for the altar and the holy tabernacle strongly present in its gold- plated, swinging doors, protecting the holy hosts for the concentration part of mass, and emanating a sense of enormous sacredness standing solidly at the feet of the crucifixion. I felt remarkably privileged to become an integral part of this as an altar boy, starting, I believe, around 4th grade, if my memory serves me right. For some reason the fluffy red cushions that lined the guard rail separating the altar area from the rest of the church stick out most clearly in my mind. Why? It was from this vantage point, with a statue of Mary in clear view, you said your penance after attending confession, a memorable part of the Catholic rituals of life that thankfully I discontinued once I entered high school, never to participate in such shenanigans again. Confession, which every good Catholic knows, took place in a small darkened indoor space that had a seat and a kneeler. You went in and the familiar darkness had a confrontational and overpowering presence that made you feel less of yourself immediately. The dark screened window before your nose swooshes open, you see a shadow of a figure, and you quickly say the words hammered into your head from your first communion training: “bless me father for I have sinned, my last confession was.” “Go ahead son,” the shadow of Father Frank responds in a dull, disaffected tone. “Well uh, um, I ah, yea, uh….,” you fumble for a moment. You are on the spot now, aren’t you, and you break out into a sweat because you don’t want to tell a lie, especially before a priest on such hallowed ground, so you blurt “I had impure thoughts, father.” I hear some mumbling and vaguely see the father bless me with the sign of the cross. “Okay. Say 10 Hail Marys and come back in two weeks.” I essentially had two lives: my Catholic life and my neighborhood life. By the time I reached 8th grade, my Catholic life began its vanishing act and I stopped going to church. The times they are a changin’ Memories of the fifties, from birth to age seven, are mostly about playful happiness. So, in effect, these were the best of times. The sixties, however, became a much different animal that pushed against my young innocence with the force of a new reality, a new plateau for me to leap into. Probably one of the most consequential days of my preteen life during the 60s — that in hindsight seems almost moronic — is February 9, 1964 — when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was ten, glued to the Fab Four’s performance. It catalyzed a mind-blowing transformation that took me far from the religious upbringing that stifled all of my inner creativity and instilled a sense of fear and guilt into everything. I jumped in headfirst. Now I wanted to be a rock star instead of a priest, like millions of other kids.
Growing Up a Good Catholic
“Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.” - Bruce Wilkinson
Old Anima
© Copyright 2019. UnderstandingXYZ.com. All rights reserved.
“Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.” - Bruce Wilkinson
Growing up in a blue-collar, mostly Catholic, close-knit neighborhood where everyone knew everyone took on an aura and profoundness that shaped me deeply. We lived on the same street that housed the convent, rectory and elementary school under the umbrella of St. Francis of Assisi and the good pastor in charge of it all, Monsignor Valenti, a very odd figure, in my mind, but a true priest by way of the honorable version of Catholicism. He would be considered a rare and extraordinarily moral and celibate bird today. One of his repeatable quotations was a slightly misquoted version of Ben Franklin’s “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” When he was brought in to distribute all the report cards to the students of St. Francis elementary school, which I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade, the monsignor would always replace the first “early” to “late,” causing great confusion in my mind. Then he would clap his hands together in front of his pursed lips, making an echo sound that gave him some sort of inner satisfaction that also confused me greatly. The large, orange/red brick convent parked itself almost directly across the street from us, an imposing structure that had a strangeness to it primarily because we typically were never let further inside than the foyer, as this awkward place was the private sanctuary for our good nuns. The elementary school and rectory — also of the same brick — located only four houses down from our home — stood out from everything else on the street. A newly built church towered behind the elementary school and rectory, the combination of these two being the centerpiece that straddled the expansive parking lots and school yards on both sides of this Catholic compound. The church’s most astonishing feature — its tall, surrounding stained-glass windows — offered snippets of the life of St. Francis of Assisi in angled glass shapes of varied sizes and colors. When the light shined through, creating a hallowed presence, I felt pious. The captivating windows spoke of the wonders of perhaps the world’s most popular saint who gave away all his inherited riches to help those less fortunate than himself. A holy man who walked with lepers . . . At the front of the church a towering crucifixion of Christ in light-tan colored, shiny plaster (marble like) bore down on all who entered, captivating the entire church with a clear view from every pew. A regal space for the altar and the holy tabernacle strongly present in its gold-plated, swinging doors, protecting the holy hosts for the concentration part of mass, and emanating a sense of enormous sacredness standing solidly at the feet of the crucifixion. I felt remarkably privileged to become an integral part of this as an altar boy, starting, I believe, around 4th grade, if my memory serves me right. For some reason the fluffy red cushions that lined the guard rail separating the altar area from the rest of the church stick out most clearly in my mind. Why? It was from this vantage point, with a statue of Mary in clear view, you said your penance after attending confession, a memorable part of the Catholic rituals of life that thankfully I discontinued once I entered high school, never to participate in such shenanigans again. Confession, which every good Catholic knows, took place in a small darkened indoor space that had a seat and a kneeler. You went in and the familiar darkness had a confrontational and overpowering presence that made you feel less of yourself immediately. The dark screened window before your nose swooshes open, you see a shadow of a figure, and you quickly say the words hammered into your head from your first communion training: “bless me father for I have sinned, my last confession was.” “Go ahead son,” the shadow of Father Frank responds in a dull, disaffected tone. “Well uh, um, I ah, yea, uh….,” you fumble for a moment. You are on the spot now, aren’t you, and you break out into a sweat because you don’t want to tell a lie, especially before a priest on such hallowed ground, so you blurt “I had impure thoughts, father.” I hear some mumbling and vaguely see the father bless me with the sign of the cross. “Okay. Say 10 Hail Marys and come back in two weeks.” I essentially had two lives: my Catholic life and my neighborhood life. By the time I reached 8th grade, my Catholic life began its vanishing act and I stopped going to church. The times they are a changin’ Memories of the fifties, from birth to age seven, are mostly about playful happiness. So, in effect, these were the best of times. The sixties, however, became a much different animal that pushed against my young innocence with the force of a new reality, a new plateau for me to leap into. Probably one of the most consequential days of my preteen life during the 60s — that in hindsight seems almost moronic — is February 9, 1964 — when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was ten, glued to the Fab Four’s performance. It catalyzed a mind-blowing transformation that took me far from the religious upbringing that stifled all of my inner creativity and instilled a sense of fear and guilt into everything. I jumped in headfirst. Now I wanted to be a rock star instead of a priest, like millions of other kids.
Growing Up a Good Catholic