I grew up Catholic. Irish Catholic at that, which is the most guilt ridden version of Catholicism (in my humble opinion anyway). Growing up catholic is an interesting thing. When I was 7, I was two years into St. Charles Catholic School in Lansdowne Pennsylvania, right outside Philadelphia. My family had moved out of the city and into the suburbs right before they had their third child (me). Only to find that the schools weren’t that much safer only 3 miles outside the city, even if you did have a backyard now.
So they sent us to Catholic school, the classes were smaller and hopefully safer. It was a choice my parents felt they had to make, but they really tried to balance out all the hell and damnation with their hippy leanings while we were growing up catholic. And the school wasn’t all bad, we could walk there as a group, we got to have music classes with the cool nun who plays trumpet, and everybody knows each other.
They really tried to balance out all the hell and damnation with their hippy leanings.
But since my mother wasn’t raised Catholic just a very spiritual person it was a choice.
She just wanted to “cover all the bases just in case it turns out that Catholicism IS the right religion and we really need our sacraments when we get to heaven. Also isn’t tradition nice?”
My Dad calls himself a recovering catholic/agnostic and because of this we weren’t the typical family there. I think for my mom, growing up catholic signified a normal upbringing which she hadn’t had. For my Dad it was more of an “Okay honey” situation, but they really tried to give us logic and common sense to balance things out.
They also did this by taking us to music festivals in the summer and my Dad mumbling under his breath whenever we talked about the bible “this is all probably bullshit”. Additionally he told us he didn’t have to go to church anymore since he went every day of his childhood, so he was covered for life. I thought that seemed like a good deal, and to me it made sense they wanted us to go to Catholic school. That way we would get all the church out of the way while we were kids, and we could have fun on Sundays as ADULTS, just like my Dad. I was constantly looking forward to when I was an adult and could do whatever I wanted.
I’m still kinda pissed that that isn’t how adulthood works.
During my tenure at St. Charles we were taught a lot of things. Among which is all the reasons you can go to hell. According to the nuns at my school here are some reasons you can go to hell as a child.
- Taking the lords name in vain.
- Yelling inside.
- Running when told to not run.
- Pushing in line.
- Not respecting your elders (aka anyone older than you).
Okay well the last few I may have just assumed because we would have to say a Hail Mary and ask for forgiveness in confession if we did them. Because of these sins I was always thinking about our eternal souls. It was a big question for me in my 7 year old brain. I was very convinced my older brothers were going to hell but also relieved that they had to confess whether they felt like it or not, once a week at Wednesday Mass. So it only really would occur if they died on a Friday-Tuesday, I assumed Thursday they’d still keep their souls relatively untarnished.
My brothers Tj & Dan were probably going to hell for lying about smoking cigarettes and cursing when they did imitations of Beavis & Butthead (they were teens). Anyway I thought it was really their own responsibility at their age, to keep their souls in check. But I thought me and my little brother Bobby, were probably in the clear as long as I looked after him. He was only 3 and half after all.
Until the day he did the deed.
One day my mother was doing something in another room. Bobby grabbed a crayon and went to work. He had recently turned 4 and could now spell out his name. B-O-B-B- that’s when my mother came in.
“BOBBBBYYYY WHYYYYY!?!!?” she wailed. I watched from below the banister in stunned silence as they faced off on the stairs. “Why would you do that Bob? You are NOT allowed to write on the walls, why on earth would you do that?”
My angelic looking little brother with his big blue eyes and dark hair looked up at her and said straight faced “God teld me to”. For a second I thought for sure she would slap him. My mother had never used corporal punishment but maybe today was that day? But no she burst out laughing at him. Tears in her eyes laughing. She sent him to time out like always and I sat dumbfounded.
I was SHOCKED! How could she not take this seriously!? He just broke two major commandments at once! He lied, and he used the lords name in vein!
HE LIED ABOUT JESUS!
I was certain he would be going to H-E- double hockey sticks. At that time I became instantly concerned about his mortal soul. After all sins count, even as children. Growing up catholic meant I was aware of the RULES. It was the only logical conclusion I could make since we have to be baptized to get rid of original sin as babies. This meant you have to confess and pray for forgiveness to get rid of sins no matter what. And since he didn’t go to confession yet, he was going to hell. I accepted this sadly and moved on. After all it wasn’t MY eternal soul being sent to damnation.
These days I’m not raising my kids with the notion of hell or damnation. I even went as far as finding a non-religious church! I’m raising my children to know that if they do something wrong they have to find ways to make it right but that lying isn’t going to ruin your soul forever if you don’t confess to a priest. But I’m still pretty certain Bob is going to hell 😉