Catholic School made me a Sinner

I put in twelve years of Catholic school... I was released on my on recognizance but served parole under the watchful eyes of a Baptist College. You could say I was "institutionalized" and feared life on the outside. Twelve years of a regulated wardrobe can have a lasting effect if they occur between five and seventeen years of age. I was the kid at the skating rink in navy blue dress pants and a white dress shirt. My time with Catholics made me a sinner. I'm not sure if it's that they taught me what sins were or made it so damned easy to be one? I get it, you break the rules... you're a sinner. But they made the rules and had I not gone to a Catholic School - I wouldn't have known they were there to break. I worried for my friends who weren't baptised because after they died they'd spend their life in purgatory with all the dead pets but they didn't know what purgatory was. What came first the chicken or the idea of a life of eternal damnation?

One of my most memorable grade school sins is also one of the most ironic. It happened once a month when we had to meet before the priest and confess our crimes against the church. I would practice my confession and set it to a rhythmic cadence to help with the memorization. The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" was a fun era for the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Bless me father for I have sinned

It's been one month since my last confession

I lied to my teacher

I stole from my sister

I skipped detention

I walked like an Egyptian.

Most of these were lies in themselves... lip service to get through the ordeal. If I had learned anything from Mass it was showmanship. Making up lies about lies was easy. First grade stuff. These were easy ones that would only merit the canned "Three Hail Mary's and an Our Father" penance.

The real lie came with the stagecraft. I often performed this well rehearsed song and dance in an empty confessional... I'd confess my made up sins to no one. No priest, layperson or janitor would be on the other side of the black screen to critique my routine.

As we would enter the church we'd line up in two single files lines of boy and girls, tallest to shortest. I'd be near the front of the male brigade and as such, I'd scope out the church for the empty confessional and form a line outside of it. Our teachers would split the lines up after a half dozen kids so there would only be a few behind me I'd have to remind of what we practiced in scrimmage. In the event the next tallest person wasn't an ally, I'd tell him the priest would be back in a bit after I'd emerge from the empty confessional downtrodden and gloomy after airing all my dirty laundry.

Sure, a big lie. But in the Catholic way, I always gave myself three Hail Mary's and an Our Father as my own penance to clean the slate so I could sin again.