Catholicism — Catholicism Everywhere.
My father grew up Catholic. When he was very young — I want to say he was six or seven years old — he became an altar boy. He was very proud of this role, and it was one that paid too! I forget how much he made per shift, but I do know that it wasn’t a lot and everything he made he gave to his mother. To date, one of the only pictures I have of him framed is of him at mass (which was always lead in Latin) with his hands in prayer.
My mom was also Catholic, so naturally, I grew up Catholic. I did all the “Sacraments of Initiation,” which consists of baptism, communion, and confirmation. All of these things were big events, requiring a party/pictures after the event. My dad was always proud of my religious accomplishments and always encouraged me to pray often and to do things in life with God/Jesus in mind. I attended Catholic school for 19 years and was a full-blown Christian until my mid-twenties. So, I feel that I lived a lot of life with God involved.
While growing up, I vividly remember a weekly routine that my family did for several years. Every Sunday, my parents, my brother, and I would head to mass at St. Clement of Rome, which was about a 20-minute drive from where we lived. Once there, we would always be in a room that was sectioned off my glass windows and doors. As a child, I always wondered why we couldn’t sit closer to where the majority of the people were. But as an adult and reflecting back on this, I believe this was the room for families who had potentially noisy kids.
I also remembered always standing next to my father. Once I got tired of being on my own two feet, I would lift my arms, and dad would scoop me up. I liked dad picking me up over my mom because he was taller (and I love being up high) and I didn’t slump down as quickly.
However, he could only hold me for so long before I did end up sliding down. When that happened, I tried to hike myself back up; sometimes, I would use his belt as a stepping point for leverage. He’d get annoyed and tell me to stop because he was going to lose his pants if I kept doing that.
When my dad carried me during mass, I would face away from the priest and the altar. I got to look at all the folks right behind us, many looked zoned out and swayed side to side as they stood. I remember this one guy who stood right behind us who had deep, dark eyes and features. He didn’t look super friendly, and when I stared at him, he stared right back at me. He never smiled — his expression really never changed at all. To this day, I always remember him because he was there every Sunday, and I would always stare at him.
After attending the long and laborious church service, we headed off to my grandparents (my dad’s parents) house, which was about 10 minutes away from the church. My parents dropped us off and took off. Where did they head off to? Usually, it was my parent’s date nights, so they’d go to the movies and/or have dinner somewhere.
I loved going over there because my grandmother was such a spunky lady. She cooked the BEST Cuban meals and would keep us entertained for however long my parents were gone. My grandfather was also a firecracker, always running around with either just wife beater on or shirtless. He had these two indentations on each side of his body, and when I asked him what happened, he said that Abuela did it…
I knew she would never!
A few years later, I remember my grandparents got a Bulldog named Susie (pronounced SOOS-E; not SOOZIE), who was not the nicest dog out there. I became very scared of her, so they had to lock her up in the kitchen when I came around. After my grandfather became ill with Alzheimer’s disease and my grandmother moved out to California, we took Susie to live with us. By this time, I wasn’t afraid of her, but she always remained an angry dog. My mother adored that dog and put up with its shenanigans until Susie passed away.
Even though I dreaded the first part of the every Sunday (the church part), I always looked forward to heading to my grandparent’s house. Because I knew that was the next destination, I put up with mass and quickly became accustomed to our weekly routine. Eventually, that ended once we got older and my grandparents no longer lived at the house near the church.
My parents still went religiously (see what I did there?) every Sunday and still do to this day. Well, my mom now goes a few times a week now. My dad hasn’t been to church in over a year.