I was born a catholic and attended convent boarding schools most of my young life. I attended Sacred Heart in Washington D.C., St. Mildred’s Academy in Laurel Maryland and St. Angela Hall in Rockville Maryland, a very fancy school where we had horses, our own vegetable plot and took our lessons in drawing rooms. In these schools, we started the day with a mass and communion before breakfast. On Thursdays, we had a 4:00 p.m. meditation during which we would sit and do nothing in front of the Eucharist for what seemed like four years. During these meditations, a nearby dog would start to howl sending us into convulsive hysterics that we had to hide. There was a Holy Roller Church down the road and we could also hear their excitable songs and shouts drifting over the Maryland hills.
I learned to sing the mass in Latin and occasionally read the “lesson” during mass.
We never saw the nuns in anything but full habits that were long and made a particular noise (a swish) accompanied by the slight click of long rosary beads bouncing against each other. Their faces were framed by the starched white wimples.
At age seven we got to receive the wafer that we were told was Jesus. We swallowed it whole without daring to chew. It was the body and blood of Christ. At nine, the bishop came to confirm us and part of the ceremony was to kiss his ring and get a slap on the cheek when His Grace gave us our confirmation name. We couldn’t wait to get slapped. We also got to pick a confirmation name and we all chose Mary or Marie. My full name could be Consuelo Mary Saah.
Every Saturday Father Breen would hear our confessions and even at seven and eight we had to collect and itemize our sins - the only sins we knew were lying, stealing, bad thoughts. If we didn’t lie or steal all week, we would say we did just to have a decent confession. “Bless me father for I have sinned. I told three lies, I stole a piece of candy and I had a bad thought about my friend.” Father Breen gave us all the same penance: “One Our Father and a Hail Mary and ask God’s forgiveness.
I was reminded of all this recently when I read that Pope Benedict XVI canonized 7 persons making them saints. If you think the epitome of slowness is the line at the DMV, canonization is slower. One of the new saints has been “on hold” since the 17th century.
Here are the steps that must be followed in the process of canonization: evidence of heroic virtue, evaluation of the candidate’s life and (the clincher) two Vatican verified posthumous miracles. I was very interested to find out what some of these “verified miracles” were.
St. Teresia Benedicta was canonized in 1997 after the Vatican verified that a young girl who ate seven times the lethal dose of Tylenol was suddenly cured after her family prayed to the spirit of Teresia.
Mother Teresa is in the canonization process. Here are her miracles:
1. A woman who broke several ribs in an accident was healed because she was wearing a Mother Teresa medallion.
2. Mother Teresa appeared in the dreams of a Palestinian girl telling her that her cancer was cured.
There’s no doubt that these were good and holy women but next to the miraculous antics that take place on the internet every day, I think the Vatican is going to have take it up a notch.
I still go to church occasionally but I have a lot of trouble with the handholding and hand shaking and talking and the mediocre english translation of the latin.