Saturday, March 12, 2016


Growing up a good Catholic boy meant following all of the rules. This meant no meat on Friday, Mass on Sunday, ashes on Ash Wednesday and palms on Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday Mass and sitting in the dark church with all the statues wrapped and not looking at me, Good Friday was anything but good, not being allowed to watch TV until after 3:00 PM, and of course there was Catholic school. Swearing had to be done under cover of darkness, away from parents and clergy and the church building, cramping my style at a young age.

Some of the best meals I had were on Friday and during The Lenten Season. It was the lack of meat that mirrored the Great Depression and it’s need for frugality that taught me about another era and the treats that were in fact, what I pay a fortune for now.

There was peppers and eggs, potatoes and eggs, eggs and cheese that resembled chicken cutlets and I swear Mom must have made eggs and eggs, beans and macaroni and fish. Mom made fish with onions and tomatoes, olives and capers, there was puttanesca sauce and broccoli and macaroni. These of course were some of the meals that were made without meat, but the list could go on forever, as long as the cook was Italian and knew that there were no real recipes, just what was in the house.

The food was just an another way of getting the family together. We would sit and enjoy something different, talk and laugh, and the next night we did it all over again. On the cold nights in our top floor flat, without heat of any real kind, except for an oil burning stove that was suppose to heat the whole apartment, the kitchen having the only heat in the house, I learned to sleep and enjoy a cold bed, I slept soundly, and still do today.

But everyday was tuned to the Catholic Church. The nuns and brothers and lay teachers Monday through Friday in Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school on Aberdeen Street in Brooklyn, Saturdays I was required to visit the priest in the confessional, and of course the Sunday Mass at 9:00 AM. Not only was I required to go, I also had to report to my classroom for Mass attendance and if I went to Holy Communion!

Mom gave me the standard wording for the confessional: “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession. I aggravated my mother and father and teased my sisters.” That was it, no more, no less. Then one Saturday I decided that my confessions lack imagination and so would confess to some real sins. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find an interesting sin, so I would make one up! As I headed toward the church, a revelation occurred, like the Holy Spirit smacking all those apostles in the head: if I make up a sin to tell the priest, it would be a sin in itself, and I wasn’t sure if I said something bad enough the priest would tell my parents. So I was back to safe sins once again.



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