Friday, February 5, 2016

Growing Up Catholic #6: More Fifth Grade Memories

So many things about fifth grade appealed to me. We learned fractions. I was a whiz at fractions because I had already learned them at Palmer School. When others struggled with reducing and lowest common denominator, I could do it in my head. Sister Mary Magdala was impressed with my precociousness. I enjoyed the attention.

I loved learning American history. Geography was interesting. But the best part of fifth grade was the invariable homework assignment that Sister gave daily. We had to compose an original paragraph on an assigned topic. This was the only homework I liked. Writing seemed to flow from my pen. It was fun for me. Sister often read examples of good paragraphs from the work that we did. The paragraphs had to make good sense, but spelling and handwriting also counted. This was good discipline. I discovered I could say things in writing that I couldn't say aloud. I had an inner voice.

In our religion lessons Sister Mary Magdala taught us the structure of the Mass. Prior to these lessons the Mass seemed like a long, holy event with words I didn't understand and actions that I did just because that's what everyone did. I tried to be quiet and reverent, because I knew it was all about giving honor to God; but, I was more inclined to hope it would end soon. I prayed what prayers I knew when my mind wasn't wandering. And I looked forward to receiving Holy Communion for three reasons. At communion time I could stand up and walk. It was special to receive Jesus, and I really sensed that. And it also meant the Mass would soon end and we could leave.

Sister Mary Magdala's lessons enlightened me to the deeper meanings of the Mass. She told us that the Mass had parts and each part meant something. The first part was the Mass of the Catechumens, now called the Liturgy of the Word. The second part was the Mass of the Faithful, now known as The Liturgy of the Eucharist. On the blackboard, Sister drew a diagram that had steps, and on each step was a sub-part of the Mass. I came to know and understand words like Kyrie, Introit, Collect, and Consecration, to name just a few. After Sister's Mass lessons I was better able to be attentive at Mass, use a Missal, and have some understanding of what the priest was doing and why. This knowledge made daily Mass attendance less of an ordeal for me.

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