Friday, April 20, 2012

Growing Up Catholic

I grew up in a typical Irish Catholic family - tons of kids very close in age. About a quarter of a mile from our house was our whole world - church, grade school, boys high school, girls high school. For those of you unfamiliar with the Catholic faith, let me educate you. You are born into a large family. You are baptized. You attend a Catholic school with other kids from large families. The nuns spend their days terrifying you into obedience. Misbehaving won't just get you in trouble with your parents. It will get you in trouble with God. Scary, yet effective, stuff for a 7 year old. The neighborhood behind the church and school compound is called the "ghetto". It is not, I realized at age 18, truly a ghetto. Non-Catholics do not brag about living in the ghetto. Out in the real world, the "ghetto" has a very different definition. Your home has lots of plaid in it- drapes, furniture, carpeting. All to match the uniform you will wear until you are 18. You will attend Mass weekly where a celibate man wearing a fancy gown will lecture you about marriage and parenting. You will nod, smile, genuflect, sing and read the church bulletin. Some of us even attend Catholic colleges. Out in the real world there are other belief systems and religions. In college, I went through a typical rebellious phase. I lived in an all-female dorm with a curfew. But, I went a little crazy. I dated Protestants. It wasn't my fault- they looked and talked like Catholics and attended the same Jesuit college. How had they sneaked in? Eventually, I got my rebellious phase out of my system. It wasn't hard - there were only a handful of them at the college and only a few were interested in dating a girl with a Jesuit great-uncle who used to be a dean at the school, 5 older brothers (one who attended the same school), a best friend who was a priest and a firm belief that girls get pregnant through close contact. Let's just say my dance card wasn't always full during college. After college, I met a wonderful man. He was even Catholic, although he did attend 'public' school. Being raised a good Catholic, I was willing to overlook this failing in his upbringing. When we were engaged, we were invited to attend a Jewish wedding. Let's just say I was out of my element. First, it was outside. Ok, it WAS California. They do wacky and crazy things out on the left coast. As we sat outside on a beautiful Saturday afternoon waiting for the ceremony to start, I was getting ansy. Why hadn't it started? Where was the groom? People around us were chuckling. My fiancé explained to me that they were waiting for sundown. Why? Because it is the sabbath. Excuse me, it is Saturday, therefore NOT the sabbath. Now people were openly laughing at me. In the Jewish faith, Saturday IS the sabbath. Face red, trying to redeem myself, I ask about the MIA groom. More laughter from behind us. Again, he explained that the groom walks down the aisle with his parents. Now, I am completely confused but I've learned to be quiet. Sort of. After the ceremony, someone mentioned that the bride and groom actually see each other before the ceremony. Now I think they are just testing me to see what I will believe. Turns out that a part of the beautiful ceremony is the signing of some sacred documents before the wedding ceremony. See what happens when you take the Irish Catholic girl away from the ghetto? Ten years into our marriage, he accepted a position at University of Notre Dame, the mecca of Catholicism outside of the Vatican. Now, it's my turn to laugh when he tries to start a business meeting without an opening prayer. Now, he has an app on his phone that helps him find a prayer for any and all situations. Now, he brags about his wife with 16 years of Catholic education under her plaid skirt.

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