Saturday, February 25, 2012

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 " Mom's blog reminded me...
On a freezing wintry day in 1963
We were pretty unsophisticated in the early 1960's... and before TV the outside world consisted of radio maybe  and just the people you came across which was not too varied in our small country town of Aberdeen NSW. My sisters and I went to a very Catholic school and the only teachers were the NUNS. They wielded ultimate power in such lengths that in my childhood I was never scared of Mum or Dad - they were a benign power comparatively. Some of the nuns I came across were fair but i was unlucky enough to strike some rare samples who it was better to try not to cross - I posted a story about them here back in 2007 - its long but if you weren't here then it might give you a laugh or four.
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 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.

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FoxyMoron said...

Ah the Catholic church. I was raised a Catholic due to my father's devout grandmother (who raised him) and my mother had many battles with the nuns at Christ the King in Yagoona where my sisters and brothers went. Gran died and she took my brothers out of there (my sisters were in high school) and put them in public school where I later went but I went through the system making my first holy communion and later my confirmation. They used fear and guilt to try to control us. Ugh.
And we wore hats like that too!

Mom said...

Great story. You make me glad that I'm a protestant.

more cowbell said...

This made me laugh, it reminds of my mother's many stories of growing up in the Catholic schools, ruled by Sister Mary Discipline and her ilk.