In the 1970s there was a marked contrast between the Catholic faith as it was taught in my elementary school and as it was taught in the church around the corner. At school, it wasn’t taught as much as it was assigned, and religion class often morphed into art class. At the church, the faith took on much larger dimensions, as if in school we had been looking at it through the wrong end of a telescope, and only when we went to Mass were we able to see it the right way round.
The homilies were stirring, and I recall returning home after a First Friday Mass to look up the martyrdom of St. Agatha in Butler’s Lives of the Saints. Fr. Bill had hinted at but spared us the grisly details. Child though I was, I found them less disturbing then than I find the ongoing martyrdom of Middle Eastern Christians.
I saw very few of my classmates in church on Sundays, but naively assumed that they were going to Mass somewhere else. After all, it had been explained to me by my parents that missing Mass on Sunday was a serious sin. Some children probably were at other parishes; other children probably weren’t.
It amazes me to this day that some Catholic parents send their children to Catholic school but don’t bother to take them to Mass. Such parental indifference certainly has an impact on the faith of Catholic schoolchildren.
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