(If you listen closely you may even hear a bell ring after reading about the completion of each sacrament)
The ride begins in October of 1962, when I was born to a Polish, post WWII immigrant Canadian Roman Catholic family and as expected to, was baptized into the faith as an infant at the Polish church where my parents were married. The woman who stood and swore in as my Godmother disappeared after the ceremony and celebration and was never heard from again. Afraid of commitment I guess. I have film footage where people can be seen milling about the church steps and sidewalk smoking. As soon as I was old enough I was humourlessly sent to attend that same Polish Parish in Toronto to provide me with appropriate religious instruction. I attended every Saturday morning to learn Catechism with other lucky winners of the, you were born a Catholic lottery draw. Lessons were delivered by a serious and mostly patient nun. I attended public school during the week and so my dad and other parent’s dutifully shuffed us kiddies off to the church to get us caught up on our soul cleansing weekly dip in holy brainwash.
I remember the lesson room filled with restless children. We listed to Bible stories, drew pictures, fooled around and really had no full grasp of what the hell we were there for. Jesus was a guy who was God’s son who died after being tortured because he loved us since we were bad or something (what? how awful.) and because of that, we now had to behave and memorize prayers and learn the sacraments. Following the completion of these lessons, I experienced my first knee knocking visit to the confessional. Once I had my soul purified by a priest in a creepy dark wooden booth and completed my prayerful penance in the pews, I had my first holy communion at age 8. Afterwards we had lunch and ate strawberries with cream at grandmas. Dad had me pose for prayer-like photos suitably attired in my children’s version of a wedding dress looking like an early retiring vestal virgin.
I did ask questions regarding the turning of the water into wine and the answer that it did actually happen every Sunday, as we sat, stood or knelt and seemed to satisfy my Dad. It never did for me. I never quite believed that story and I was stunned to learn that my Dad did. When I’d asked about why we had to do the confessional, Dad said that a priest had to hear your sins in order for them to be forgiven. I asked why we couldn’t just tell anybody then. No that wouldn’t do, it had to be a priest. What if you lived alone on an island? Don’t be a smart aleck. What if you couldn’t talk or didn’t know a priest, like my friends from other faiths? I suppose for their circumstances there would be a special dispensation from God for them. I remember that I was unable to really accept all those explanations, particularly since I had already learned there was no Santa Claus. I still have the white leather bound prayer book proffered to me following the ceremony. The rosary I’d never been taught to use tucked in the zippered side pocket, was lost long ago. For a time it served as a necklace for my dolls and a headband for me.