Catholic nostalgia for faithfully devout Catholics

What does it mean to be Catholic?  Beyond Holy Communion and the Baltimore Catechism and Holy Days of Obligation, being Catholic is being part of a culture, of a heritage.  We were raised in houses filled with Catholic iconography: a crucifix in every room, figurines of the Virgin Mary here and there, maybe a stone statue of St. Francis in the garden.  

When we were little, we looked forward to Palm Sunday because our grandfathers would make intricate woven artwork from the palms we received at church.  We fidgeted in our pews on Sundays because we couldn’t wait for the donuts and orange juice in the Parish Hall afterwards.  We cherished our white gloves and white patent leather purses that we carried to mass each week, a tiny Missal tucked inside.  We had our throats blessed on St. Blaise Day.  Some of us went to Parochial school, some of us when to CCD every Sunday.  We knew which patron saints to pray to, for everything from toothaches (St. Christopher) to sunny days (St. Thomas Aquinas). The smell of incense still comforts us like an old friend.  

What are your fondest memories of growing up Catholic? Listen to some of these anecdotes of Catholic nostalgia, from people who enjoyed the unique childhood of a Catholic:

“Growing up, my dream was to go to Our Mother of Sorrows, the Catholic high school in my town.  The uniforms (skirts and blouses, not jumpers), the perfectly-scuffed saddle shoes, the special grown-up little gold cross necklace I saw all the girls wearing . . . I longed to be as holy and happy as those young ladies were.  Imagine my misery when my family moved away just after my Freshman year!  But I will never forget the thrill of my first day at OMOS.” Carol, age 50

“Growing up Catholic may have been a little more intense than it was for non-Catholic kids, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  All the Angels and Saints kept me safe from the Bogeyman and helped me find my glasses whenever I lost them. Thanks St. Anthony!” ~ John Michael, age 33 was a bundle of nerves on the day of my First Holy Communion.  I had been looking forward to it for months.  I was so excited about actually having the body of Christ inside me that I had knots in my stomach.  Unfortunately, I was so nervous and so excited that I threw up all my cake and ice cream at my party afterwards.  My aunt soothed my fears as I sobbed that I had vomited up Christ, that I was only 8 and I was already a bad Catholic boy.  I’ll never forget her telling me ‘Honey, Christ is always with you, and he understands when you feel sick, and he helps you do what you have to do to feel better.’  I still chuckle when I think of it, my aunt convincing me that Jesus helped me throw up so my tummy ache would go away.” Peter, age 29

“The nuns were both feared and loved at my Catholic school, but they had very strict rules.  We lived by the Horarium, which was the Latin word for our schedule.  What’s Parochial school without rules?  I am forever punctual because of that schedule.  It is also one of the few Latin words I remember.” ~ Regina, age 41

“When I went to my first confession, I was terrified.  At our church, we actually sat in front of the Father John with our hands in our laps and our heads down.  None of those mysterious and anonymous little booths like they show in movies.  I practiced and practiced what I was going to say when it was my turn, but all I could choke out was ‘I hit my brother and I talk too much during class.’  As soon as I said it, I felt like a fool.  I had more sins than that!  Would my soul be cleaned from all of them?  I passionately recited my penance and felt a peace come over me.  I knew that my sins were wiped clean, and I felt like the best little Catholic girl in the world.” Margaret, age 24

 “I think Catholic nostalgia is just as important as your current faith- where we come from shapes our faith.  Every Christmas, my Great Aunt Verna sends us altar bread from her Polish church up in Pennsylvania.  My grandfather breaks the colorful cardboard-like squares, each featuring a holy image of Christ or the Sacred Heart. We eat it with honey and horseradish.  It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without Great Aunt Verna’s altar bread.” Madeline, age 26

What are your favorite memories?  Join and share your memories with others who grew up Catholic just like you.  Laugh, cry, and groan at the memory of Sister Herman Marie and her scary moustache!