Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Catholic Education: My Past

Why My Daughter Goes to a Catholic School

Other than attending Mass every Sunday, there is little that I remember about the Catholic part of growing up in California in the 1970s and early 1980s.  I remember the big moments, such as First Holy Communion, my Confirmation retreat and the day I received that Sacrament, and having the privilege to be one of three girls chosen to crown Mary in May of my eighth grade year.

I attended Catholic schools for all eight years of my primary education and all four years of my secondary education.  I remember next to nothing of my formal religious instruction, but I do remember this:

Our lunch break at my parish Catholic grammar school was from 11:30am to 12:30pm.  All 240 students successfully coexisted on the large, tarry, black-top playground.  There were many activities available to us:  hopscotch, four square, the currently much-maligned dodge ball, jump ropes, kick-ball, etc.  But at noon, every ball was picked up, every hopscotch marker was left on the ground, and every jump rope ceased its twirling. Silence took over, we all turned toward the school’s white stone Mary statue, and led by the principal’s voice over the loudspeaker, we prayed the Angelus together.  The image is powerful for me now, and the experience was powerful for me then, despite the fact that my play-time was interrupted.

I believe that this one daily experience with prayer later saved my life.  As a young adult, I fell away from the Church.  I didn’t renounce it, but I no longer cared much about it.  It didn’t seem to hold any relevance in my modern life at a liberal public university.  Later, as a 28 year old woman, I faced a major life crisis, the kind of which I pray daily my children will never face.  But in the midst of great suffering, I fell to my knees.  I begged God to intervene and alleviate my pain, because at that moment He was the only one who could.  I didn’t remember or pray the Angelus, but I instinctively knew that the best thing I could do in that moment was to be silent and turn my attention to Him.

That is the instinct that I want my children to develop, and that is why I will continue my daughter’s exposure to as authentically Catholic an environment as possible, both at home and in school.  I have never read Aristotle, Plato, or even St. Thomas Aquinas, but in the darkest moment of my life, I remembered to pray.  If my children one day do the same, that’s enough for me. 

If they turn toward Him, He will carry them through.

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