I was raised Catholic. I can vividly recall the strictness of Sunday mass. Parishioners dressed in their best. The smell of incense penetrating the walls as statues of Saints looked down upon you. The sun beaming through windows made of stained glass would create prisms of rainbows. The priest would begin his strict promenade down the white lined aisle. Parishioners felt that if he looked directly at you or reached out to touch the head of your child, it was as if God Himself was giving you extra blessings.
Once at the altar, the customary routine began. Make the sign of the cross, stand up, sit down, sign of the cross, kneel, stand, sit, sign of the cross, kneel, stand. We needed to sit straight, not cross our legs, couldn’t talk to each other and couldn’t chew gum. This would be considered disrespectful behavior in the House of the Lord. Some Sundays, we would arrive an hour early in order for us to attend confession. A dark closet like room with 2 doors awaited us wrong doers. Inside, a small kneeling bench was located right under a 12 by 12 inch window that had small holes cut into it. a panel on the window would slide open and the Priest would ask “Child, what are you here to confess?” I was 10 years old. Sin to me was telling my mom I didn’t have homework when I actually needed to read a chapter book. Or, telling friends that we were going to the drive-in on Friday when in actuality, we couldn’t afford it. Sometimes, I felt as if I needed to make something up, but then that was a sin in itself. The Father would absolve me of my sins, gave me penance and waited for the next sinner. I would walk out, kneel at the altar and begin praying for forgiveness…twenty Hail Mary’s and 10 Our Fathers. More times than not, I lost count. Sometimes on purpose. This scenario repeated itself every Sunday.
Once Joey was born, I would pray to the Virgin Mary to protect him. That’s what I was taught. That if you continuously prayed to her, she would listen to your pleas. I even crawled on my knees once, on an old beaten up wooden floor of a 100 year old church. I was petitioning the Virgin Mary to protect my Little Joey. My knees scratched, bloodied and screaming out in pain but yet I felt a peace that I fulfilled my plea and nothing would ever happen to him. Every Sunday when I attended Mass, I would kneel in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary, light a candle and prayed for protection over my three children.
This became a routine that I was afraid to break