This post does not preach or try to convert anyone of any religion. It’s the story of my intersection with the Catholic Church at 13 years old. In my recent post “I Almost Killed My Father” I told of spending a year at a Convent for bad girls. It is here I became familiar to the Catholic Religion. Growing up we did not go to church. I would go with any family who would take me. During the first three months in the Convent you were not allowed to go home and had to attend Mass on Sundays. The Mass services were different from anything I had seen before. Being an easily bored teenager prompted me to ask lots of questions. I started going to Mass every morning at 7:00 a.m.to watch the rituals. It was not a religious journey at this time. More of a learning experience and a way to keep me out of trouble. As far back as I can remember my mother told me I was stupid, retarded and had a low IQ. I did not know this was emotional abuse, it was just the norm. My grandparents worked hard to convince me I could do anything I put my mind to. Off track but worth noting, this is where my Miss America story comes from. I loved beauty pageants as a little girl and watched many with my gramps. He said if I want to be Miss America I could. It’s a story you’ll hear again. As it turned out the affirmation stuck. Back on track. Being at the Convent was good for me, I was away from the abuse of both parents. It was the first time my teachers would ask me what I thought. I became a sponge. There were a couple of people on the campus other than the nuns. My counselor was a PhD. in Philosophy, as tall as lurch and I thought he was the smartest person in the world. He saw my interest loaned me books on Philosophy. My mind had cracks open and we would talk about the books for hours at a time. I was in awe, read poetry by people I had not heard of. Philosophy wasn’t in my vocabulary. I started a newspaper for the school, me the kid who wouldn’t amount too much. My grandparents were the only people who gave me positive affirmations. Starved for positive feedback and learning provided a foundation of leadership. Father George spent an hour everyday trying to teach this tone def kid. He smelled like cigarettes and mold. I ask him questions about the church as they came to mind, probably to shorten the lesson. The affirmations about being smart started sinking in. I was given more responsibility and privileges as time went on. The nuns and staff were devout Catholics and would share information if asked. The convent was huge sitting at the top on a large piece of land, it was over 100 years old. I was studying to become a Catholic at this point. My counselor and Father George instructed me. There was a small chapel on the grounds used mostly by the nuns. One afternoon Father George took me to the smaller chapel to learn The Stations of the Cross. We walked around while he told me the story and why it was important.
Looking back it was one of the first decisions I made. I believe the big decision to convert to a Catholic propelled me in an upward motion. I didn’t want to be told how stupid I was ever again. Father George baptized and confirmed me before leaving. My grandparents came to watch. It was a special time for me in many ways I did not know yet. I leave and go to live with my grandparents. I went to church until 19 years old. The service one Sunday talked about adultery. To make sure I heard the priest correctly, I ask him specifically about adultery applying to someone who remarried. I didn’t enter a Catholic Church for over 20 years. Ok, what about the stations of the cross you ask. During a very dark time I started listening to the bible and programs on television. The Stations of the Cross had left my memory a long time ago. I couldn’t recall any of Stations and did a search to read them. The Stations of the Cross is not a Catholic thing, it’s a Jesus thing. I will butcher the correct way to explain but I’ll give it a go. The Stations are twelve significant events starting with Jesus being condemned to death. I was praying all the time for help with my depression. The Ninth Station is when Jesus falls a third time. I thought about it for a long time, then knew I could get up. Nothing magic, it could have been any of them. The Convent provided me a priceless education and the beginning of my life without abuse.