I was reminded of something a bit naughty I did when about 10 in order to get out of going to Ash Wednesday Mass at 7am in the morning before school. Just reading "http://byrtlesgirl.blogspot.com.au Mom's blog reminded me...
|On a freezing wintry day in 1963|
|Veronica (Confirmation day) at rear, |
June on right and myself -
who would but those awful hats for us?
Because it was a small town and the Catholic boarding school (for primary school boys) was a big establishment in the town the nuns seemed to know and see all - which is true and not a fancy. As town kids we were able to attend this excellent (for education) if savage school. Nothing much touched me emotionally that way in those days and still - I always recovered quickly from any canings or other and never really ever took it personally - you just got on with it and unless it was really bad never told anybody. I got the cane often under one nun particularly and it got so that ti didn't hurt...I just toughed it out and once over I went on out into the playground and was pretty happy most of the time.
In that town in those days some week day mornings as well as on Sundays there would be an early morning mass. If it was a holy day such as Ash Wednesday the town kids as well as the boarders were not only expected to go to mass it was considered a MORTAL sin if you didn't. That is at age 9 or so you could go straight to HELL if you missed Mass - or so we were told.
Some part of me, my gut instinct saw through this bullshit and I knew that any God who loved me and knew me wouldn't be so silly... Ash Wednesday, 7am... Mass time. I just didn't want to go. off June and Veronica trotted..."I'll come a bit later" we lived close. (I hid out in the yard somewhere) Towards 8am I started to realise it might not have been a wise move as the Nuns always seemed to know exactly who wasn't there out of the two hundred or so kids...Its got me beat but they were always spot on...so I started to - too late - re think my absence. as well all the people who went to Mass on Ash Wednesday had a black cross on their foreheads done in ash by the priest. Well - I could fix that I thought and went down to where Mum tipped out the ashes. Down I squatted - dipped my fingie in the blackness and collected a good amount...skulked up to the house and snuck into the bathroom just as my sisters were coming home. I drew on my forehead a big black cross, bigger and blacker than ever - they would see how Holy i was and know I had indeed been to Mass. My sisters were asking where I had been and that part was easy - "down the back and i ran home before you" - they were doubtful but you just didn't dob to the nuns because the outcome was too awful to contemplate.
Off to school... the first nun i came across was one of the kinder ones and when sh commented on not seeing me at Mass I said without blinking an eyelid, "I was there down the back. See I have the cross." I remember her looking at me in a strange way and commenting "Oh but what a big black cross you do have Therese" Thinking I had fooled her I went on my merry way... I know I got into some trouble over it later - mainly being questioned intensively - but it can't have been too bad because deep down my survival instinct let me know not to change my story, insist I had been there and they really couldn't prove it anyway. I remember when I came home from school still proudly wearing my Ash Wednesday cross Mum looked at me strangely and said "Maybe you might need to wash that off by now" Off to the mirror and there it was - what had seemed such a good imitation of the priest's delicate and gentle efforts was there bigger because of smudging and all over my forehead...I think I got away with that one - and somehow I know God has a good sense of the ridiculous - he made us humans after all.