Memories of a Catholic School

When I was Director of Religious Education at a church in upstate New York, one of the perqs was free tuition for the kids at the parish school. This was fine for preschool, but a nightmare when my son got to kindergarten. It was a rigid program–full day, with the kids sitting at little desks in rows. My son was struggling, and the teacher and principal were not into adapting for individual needs.

February 3 is the day of St. Blaise, patron saint for sore throats (he was beheaded, according to legend). On this day, Catholic churches “bless throats.” After mass, deacons and priests stand at stations at the front of the church, each one holding two candles joined in an “x” shape. This is put against the person’s throat, while a blessing is said. Why candles? Because the prior day is Candlemas. Here are some pictures.

At that point, I had never heard of this ritual–more importantly, neither had my son. It wasn’t explained to the kids ahead of time (as any good teacher would do)–the kids were just lined up and expected to go up. My son did, following everyone else, and then was shocked when this big guy takes this big candles (to a Kindergartner) and, holding them like a giant pair of scissors, thrusts them towards his throat. He backed up and uttered some kind of yelp, and moved quickly away. Were the teacher and principal at all sympathetic? Did they try to understand why a kid might feel this way? Nope. He “had a problem,” in their view.

One thought on “Memories of a Catholic School

  1. Both as a kid and as an adult, I’ve never understood that kind of short-sightedness as was displayed by your son’s teacher and principal. Explaining a procedure to a child and listening to him/her does much to allay fears.

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