I've a number of childish misunderstandings concerning the faith. When about three years of age, I accompanied my father to the parish office. I've no idea why, but once inside, while dad spoke with a man at a desk, the priest entered through a side door. He sat down at another desk, opened a brown bag, took something out of it, made the sign of the Cross over it, and proceeded to eat a very ordinary looking bologne sandwich. In total amazement, I called out, "Daddy, is he allowed to do that?" I thought priests lived only on Hosts.
I also thought the prayer went, Our Father...."hollowed" be Thy name... I just figured that God was so vast and beyond understanding, that if you could go up to Him and yell, your voice would echo back as mine did when yelling into the "hollow" opening of the cave on my cousin's farm! I'd never heard of the word "hallow," and it didn't occur to me to ask.
When about six years old, our Church was shut for renovation and Mass was moved to the all-purpose room of the school. (I was a first grader, but didn't attend St. Margaret's because it was beyond the distance for which there was school bus transportation.) High on the wall above the altar, was painted in blue and gold, the huge words, "Gloria in excelsis Deo," followed by the rest of the Credo in smaller Gothic letteting. Although the Mass was mostly in English at that time, 1964-5, I knew this was in Latin. If I got restless, I'd try to figure out what it said. "Gloria," no problem; it meant Glory. "In excelsus," was referring to "excellent," but I was stumped by "Deo." The only similar English word I knew of was on that small bottle of pinkish liquid in the top drawer of my parents' dresser; that stuff my mother rubbed in her armpits so she wouldn't smell sweaty... Again, I never asked, I figured it was a reminder for adults that God's House should smell nice, not sweaty! There was also something about a "...minibus" in the writing. I never did find an explanation for that, except that maybe the Catholic school kids rode there on a minibus?
My family had a small travel trailer, so we often went for weekends to an oceanside campground about 50 miles from our home. While there, we went to Sunday Mass at a church called "Scared Heart." I was always careful to be on my best behavior and really pray because I didn't want to be "scared!"
On another occasion shortly after making my First Holy Communion, we were somewhere in Rhode Island visiting the family of Navy buddy of my father. When it came time for Communion, I stood up, but my parents did not. Dad whispered that he and Mom were not going to receive. They planned to go to a later Mass with "Uncle" Jim and "Aunt" Eileen, but I should go by myself. It was a large church, very old, with high, vaulted ceilings and a real pipe organ, much bigger than I was used to. I said I didn't want to go, but Dad told me to be a big girl and gave me a little push into the aisle. I went up, received without problem, and then came the scary part. The church was big and crowded. What if I couldn't find the right pew where my family was seated? I literally didn't know a single person. My worst fears came to pass. I found myself at the doors, having gone past my family. People were still coming back to their pews, so going back wasn't an option. I didn't dare go down the middle aisle lest I end up near the sanctuary and have to take Communion again, a mortal sin! Badly frightened, I stood by the Holy Water on the Gospel side for the remainder of Mass. Of course I was "found" when my family made their way to the doors. Once outside, Dad complimented me on waiting in the back rather than rudely squeezing past a long pew full of people. It wasn't the most devout Communion, but I grew up a bit that day. I was never afraid again to go to Communion or Confession without my parents.
One last anecdote! At age three I was hospitalized for several days for tests after a series of kidney infections. This was in 1962; the nursing sisters still wore habits. I thought my parents had "traded me in," swapped me for my new baby brother who recently been born at St. Charles. (Years later my mother finally found out why I was so mean and angry when she came to visit!) The first night I was too upset to eat my dinner. A young nun came to me and tried her best to comfort me and get me to eat, "just a wee bite of this and a wee bite of that." At one point she pretended she was going to eat the pickle slice off the hamburger. "Yummy! So sweet, so juicy, perfectly delicious!" She won me over and I took a bite of everything and ate the whole pickle slice. Sr. then feigned displeasure that I hadn't saved so much as a drop of pickle juice for her. She was instantly my favorite nun, Sr. Bridget! The doctors found nothing wrong with my kidneys. I was discharged and just like Sr. Bridget said, they wanted me back. A week or so later, we finished off a jar of pickles at lunch. I got very excited because now I had a gift to bring to Sr. Bridget! Her favorite food in all the world, pickle juice! But, alas, it wasn't to be. Before I could say anything, Mom snatched it off the table and poured the juice down the drain! After some time, it came to light that I believed a nun drank pickle juice! It became a subject of much teasing and is still sometimes mentioned today. My sister (NOT A NUN) had her second baby at Sy. Charles. When I came up to see her and my new nephew, she informed me that she'd told Sr. Bridget I'd bring a gallon of pickle juice, so she seriously hoped I had it with me, or else.....
I was able, through the one nun still at St. Charles, the last of her convent, at age 97, still visiting patients, the path of Sr. Bridget's life. In 1962, she'd just taken the habit. But with Vat. II, like the majority of the nuns, she'd departed having not made final vows. She married, had four children, divorced in the 1980s, and had died of cancer in 1990. I pray for the repose of her soul. R.I.P., Sr. Bridget.