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Being Brought Up Catholic

By Pipka

St. Theresa Statuary

I went to a Catholic school in a small Minnesota town. I think I’m one of the few people that loved it. The nuns were strict but kind, the priests approachable. To me, anyway. Every day the kid in our gang who lived the furthest away would start the walk to school, picking us up along each block until we were a group of 10 or so, making our way to school. Usually, we went to mass which was, in those days, said in Latin and which I thought was mysterious and beautiful. On the first Friday of each month, my home economics class would bake, and all the kids would come in after mass for a fresh baked breakfast of cinnamon rolls. I started feeding people early in my life. I loved to pray the rosary and could relate to the Virgin Mary, probably because I had a wonderful mother. Jesus, well that was another matter. It broke my heart that he suffered so, and to this day I don’t like to mention the name of the man that sentenced Him to death on the cross. As for God the Father, well, my father was remote, so it’s no surprise that I had a hard time imagining the Father in the sky as a loving, kind guy. Of course, these things changed as I got older and was able to come to a compromise with my upbringing and my more mature beliefs. God the Father, well, I think if God is everywhere, He must be right here, in my room, in every breath I take. And the Virgin Mary, I’m still crazy about her. We talk pretty much every day. Usually I am asking for something, guidance, protection for my family, but I like to end each prayer with a heartfelt thank you. My closeness with the Virgin Mary has led me into many churches around the world, lighting a candle in front of her statue, adding my prayer or petition to the thousands of people that came before me, sealing the bond I feel with her. A few weeks ago, while I was visiting my family in Wauwatosa, I made an early morning trip to one of my favorite bakeries (there’s that baking again), Molly’s Cafe. Molly has a cozy bakery filled with numerable delicious baked cakes, bars and cookies, perched on cake stands on top of stacks of cookbooks. It’s one of my favorite hangouts when I am there. Across the street from Molly’s is Christ the King Church. I noticed it because, one, it’s pretty, has a school and, two, it’s the same name as the school my children went to when they were young. On this day, I thought I’d see if it was open although churches are usually not open during the week. After enjoying my pastry and coffee, I crossed the street and went to the side entrance of the church, tugged at the door, gently because, to my surprise and delight, it was open! Happy days. I walked into the cool, quiet exterior. It was empty except for an older lady sitting in the back. The church has that newer look about it, not like the baroque ornate churches of Europe, but there was something about the space, light and simplicity of it that drew me in. I walked to the front, the traditional cross over the alter flanked by flowers. Then as I looked to my left, there, in an alcove, was small statue of Mary with a stand of candles before her. Perfect. I’d go say a prayer, asking her to say ‘Hi” to my mother, and light a candle, which I did. I sat there, quietly, feeling peaceful and heard. Then I noticed the Stations of the Cross in niches in the walls along the sides of the church. Often these scenes are carved from wood, but these looked like intricate bright paintings, so I moved closer to see what I was really looking at. The scenes were not bigger than 14 x16 inches and each scene was made up of tiny, tiny pieces of mosaic glass, which was why the colors were so vibrant. The bodies showed muscle, movement, the clothing looked like velvet, they were such dimensional real scenes. Everything seemed to stand still as I stood in awe before each beautiful image. I felt like I was in the presence of holiness. After a long look around, I returned to the niche with Mary in it, the candles burning softly, to say thank you and goodbye. And I realized the image was not the Virgin Mary at all, but St. Theresa! Oh well, I’m sure she will give Mary my prayers, as they are all up there together anyway. Or down here… in every breath we take. What a lovely, serendipitous morning to add to my memories of being brought up Catholic, visiting churches, baking for my fellow students and appreciating the art that is inspired by our search for the miraculous holiness of life.



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