” This introduced incredible possibilities to me! I could wear a Scapular, kiss Lisa Huber, Kathy Lowery AND Marilyn Richmond (my secret crush in third grade) on the lips…steal a Snickers bar from Rexall Drug store, run into traffic and; if I were killed instantly by a dry cleaning truck, be sitting on Jesus lap within seconds! I wouldn’t even have to go to confession anymore! “Doug Pacheco
If you are someone like me who grew up shrouded in the mystery of religious tradition and intertwined in the confusion between what is Biblical and what isn’t…then this blog is for you.
I grew up Catholic…and I wasn’t a very good one either. Now, back in those days of the early 1960’s, there were some pretty devout…
1. having or showing deep religious feeling or commitment.
“she was a devout Catholic” synonyms:
pious · religious · devoted · dedicated · reverent · God-fearing · believing · spiritual · prayerful · holy · godly · saintly · faithful · dutiful · righteous · churchgoing · orthodox
families in our parish…good ol’ St. Bartholomew’s. We weren’t one of those families… devout I mean. I was pretty sure we would all fry like taco shells, but we had the gift of the gab and Dad would talk with God if it came down to it and would get us into Heaven…he was a lumber salesman you know!
Bartholomew…one of Jesus Apostles, wasn’t the most popular of the apostles. He got laughed at by the other apostles because he had a nerdy name…AND that thing with throwing sand at Peter…missing and hitting Jesus square in the back by the Sea of Galilee didn’t win him any points either. BUT… he got churches named after him and he DID get the assignment to go to India and then Armenia with the Gospel…but all the PLUM assignments went to Peter, James and John cause they reclined at the cool kids table always breaking bread with Jesus and were three of Jesus BFF’s. Anyway, I digress. A good Catholic education is invaluable!
St. Bartholomew’s was a bad Catholic kids paradise. We had girls… really good looking ones! AND, on top of that there was no nonsense about political correctness…we just outright pulled the girls hair and they kicked our shins…normal, flirting for a 3rd grader and no lawsuits! I also learned to cuss and smoke at St. Bartholomew’s. You get more for your money at parochial schools!
When I began school at St. Bartholomew’s in 1964…(my parents held me back a year because I was born in December and would not have been old enough to start in 1963 so I began first grade at 7 years old), all of the Masses were in Latin. This is called a “High Mass”. I once wondered if you had to “BE” high to enjoy it; a question I would later learn the answer to. Anyone who remembers Mister Mister of 1980’s fame will remember the song “Kyrie” and if not then you’ll have to look it up, cause I never liked Mister, Mister. Again, I digress.
We would sing the “Kyrie” in our Mass three times a week when we went to Mass. The priest would say, “Dominus Vobuscum” (The Lord be with you) and we would answer, “Et cum spirit tu tuo” (and with your spirit). That is about all I remember because Lisa Huber and Kathy Lowery distracted me…real babes in third grade!
When a kid hears a religious service in a dead language, everything is open to interpretation, you know? My buddies Terry Harper and Kevin Sanneman learned most of our ninja skills by evading the detection of the Darth Vader of the Vatican SISTER ELVIRA during Mass. Writing notes about girls to each other and passing gum to each other, which; should one chew it in Mass, WOULD SEND YOU DIRECTLY TO HELL! It’s true…John Anderson was in first grade with me and the next year he wasn’t at St. Bartholomew. I vaguely remember passing him a piece of gum on the last day of first grade in Mass. Sorry John…but it was Juicy Fruit and was probably worth the instant damnation you incurred. RIP! I’ll be thinking of you down there in Purgatory.
Which brings up the whole issue of extra biblical afterlife issues which we didn’t know were not in the Bible…but Sister Elvira and the other storm troopers at the school assured us that PURGATORY was no Sunday school picnic! (We didn’t know what Sunday school WAS…but it seemed terrible to us since Sunday meant eating a big roast around the family table and in MY family…we got to drink Coca Cola on Sunday’s! Kid’s in Sunday School probably had to eat communion wafers which made your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth!) Poor Schmucks!
Purgatory was a horrible place. You see, since we didn’t read the Bible for ourselves, the Priest of the Parish would explain the rules about getting into heaven, which practically NO ONE got into…at least not right away. This is because as Catholics, we didn’t just believe in Salvation by faith…we also believed you needed good deeds to help you in as well. I did lots of good stuff, like raked leaves, and became a Boy Scout, shined my shoes…you know, REAL salvation stuff like that! So, when you died you would go into purgatory for final polishing and to get any dents out of your fenders. Babies who died in infancy would go to Limbo…a place located in an African nation where they learned to lean backwards and dance under a constantly lowered bar…eventually as they grew up, the bar was lowered into purgatory…I think.
If you have read Larry Tomczak ‘s book, “Clap Your Hands!”, he tells of playing baseball, and while waiting for fly balls would repeat over and over and over in the outfield…”Jesus, Joseph and Mary…Pray for me”. Every time he said it, he got one day knocked off his sentence in purgatory. Larry says he figured by the time he got to purgatory, he’d have about an hour or so left, and then Mary would punch his ticket and send him to Heaven.
So, upon death, if you had been a reasonably good Catholic, you would get a voucher (that’s what it looked like in my mind)…kind of like a note the nuns would pin to our shirts so our parents would read it. This voucher would ultimately be read by Jesus or probably by Mary, His mother, since mothers always read the notes on a kid’s shirt. She would tell Jesus that ultimately after an undetermined eternity or so, AND after people had prayed for you and held masses for you…that you would be coming to Heaven. She would also tell Jesus not to hold his breath, cause this Pacheco kid was a baaad egg!
Purgatory wasn’t hot, hot. It was kind of like an over heated steam bath filled with fat guys wrapped in big towels and we would all be chained to the wall, sweating…with a Baby Ruth or a Snickers placed just out of reach to torment us. Some of the guys next to you would smell like garlic…torture! All in all, if I had to spend a couple hundred or thousand years somewhere besides heaven, I’m guessing Purgatory wouldn’t be all THAT bad…but it was no Sunday school picnic…poor Schmucks!
Now you won’t find this in the Bible, but I’m telling you that all we Catholic boys and girls had been told a super secret…. secret. I am now breaking my silence after 61 years to make this secret available to all non Catholics!
There was this thing called a “Scapular” (which I thought was a shoulder blade, but later learned that it wasn’t). A Scapular was, for lack of a better explanation for those of you who do not speak Latin, a Holy card, which was sort of like a baseball card with Mary or a saint’s picture on it blessed by the Bishop.
A Bishop; in Catholic lingo and in lower mafia organizational substructure, was the boss of a priest. The Bishops boss was an Arch bishop, (he wore good shoes) and an Arch bishop’s boss was a Cardinal who; unbeknownst to us was not a bird but a guy in a red hat who spoke with Pope Paul who weekly lunched with the Godhead and got the updated rules…and passed them down the line! Capiche?
The Scapular was worn around your neck on a silk ribbon, like a necklace. If you were wearing a Scapular when you croaked…you walked right into Heaven, bypassing Purgatory and to heck with doing good works! I figured right then and there, that a Scapular was more important than Carl Malden’s American Express Card…I didn’t leave home without it! Later on; after Vatican 2, the Scapular was replaced by a pin you could wear. Sort of like replacing a floppy disk for a thumb drive or something. God keeps up with techy stuff!
I asked my first grade teacher, Sister Gertrude Marie…(because Catholic nuns take on ugly names, they don’t have to wear a Scapular…the fact that they went through life with a name like that gets them right into heaven…I mean, fair’s fair!) if I could get two Scapulars JUST TO MAKE SURE! She assured me I could get in with only one but I would have to wait until my first communion and then my confirmation…until then, to walk carefully and don’t break any rules.
This introduced incredible possibilities to me! I could wear a Scapular, kiss Lisa Huber, Kathy Lowery AND Marilyn Richmond (my secret crush in third grade) on the lips…steal a Snickers bar from Rexall Drug store, run into traffic and; if I were killed instantly by a dry cleaning truck, be sitting on Jesus lap within seconds! I wouldn’t even have to go to confession anymore! An eternity eating Baby Ruth’s, Snickers, drinking coke and chewing Juicy Fruit. I was sure Jesus had a free vending machine by His throne. Who’s to say He doesn’t? Not you! You’ll probably be sitting in Sunday School eating communion wafers til they come out your noses! Poor Schmucks!