Monday, November 26, 2007

Stations of the Cross

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

It's unlikely, I know, given my general aversion to (or at least suspicion of) organized religion, but S is for Stations of the Cross.

From first through eighth grade, I attended Catholic school. I did not wear a plaid skirt and blue cardigan, and the nuns never slapped my fingers on my desk with a ruler. I was, however, forced to go to church enough times in those eight years that I graduated feeling I should be exempt for the rest of my life, much the way my dad has always weaseled out of doing dishes on the grounds that he "did [his] KP in the army." Both arguments are based on faulty and ridiculous logic, of course, but oddly, my mother questioned only mine.

By now, I've pushed Catholicism out of my head for enough years that I'm actually sort of alarmed when, at church with my parents on holidays, I can't remember bits and pieces of the Nicene Creed. Most of the responses and rituals still work on auto-pilot, but apparently a few little tidbits have slipped out of the spot where they were embedded in my brain, most likely replaced with something undoubtedly more important, like the name of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck's baby* or the recipe for a perfect margarita.**

Among those tidbits I've surprisingly lost over the years is nearly all recollection of the Stations of the Cross. If you were raised Catholic, you likely know what these are. If you went to a Catholic grade school, you not only know what they are, but you probably remember filing into church every Friday afternoon of Lent to recite the fifteen consecutive prayers from a little religious picture book, alternating a tedious stand-kneel-stand-kneel routine between each one.

Stations of the Cross were my second-least favorite thing about Lent--the first being that "No meat on Fridays" rule in a house for which "no meat" meant "fish." I have never particularly liked fish, but rather than respect that and realize that "no meat" could mean macaroni and cheese, or spaghetti with tomato sauce, or cheese pizza, or any other of several meatless entrees well known even in the tiny tofu-less town where I was raised, my parents insisted that Fridays invariably meant fish. (Clearly I've been as traumatized by this as I was by the whole scrambled egg thing.)

Although I couldn't have named more than two of the stations without consulting Google just now, and although I remember likely no parts of the prayers I at one point had memorized, I actually think about the Stations of the Cross somewhat regularly. Or, maybe not regularly, but every time I hear a certain Bruce Springsteen song.

I could have told you without even consulting that page I just linked that "One Step Up" was released somewhere around 1987 or 1988. I remember this because it was popular on the radio during my seventh or eighth grade year, and I remember that because Christine Mellanowski and I used to sing it often on our way back from flute lessons that year.

Because our school was too small for its own band or proper music department, we all walked over to the public middle school three blocks away for music lessons (as well as for Home Ec, Tech Ed, and hot lunch). My flute lessons were scheduled on Friday afternoons, which means I was excused from whatever class was held at that same time, as well as the beginning of Lenten Stations of the Cross. Christine and I weren't dumb. We realized that the longer we took walking back to school, the more of the time in church we would miss.

Enter Bruce Springsteen. We didn't sing that song because either of us were particularly big fans of The Boss. We sang it because when we did just what the chorus described, the three-block journey worked in reverse. One step up and two steps back. One step forward, two behind. Three blocks could take forever with this song inspiring us.

Amazingly, Sr. Rose never caught on. Or, if she did, she never said anything. Maybe she hated Stations of the Cross as much as we did. Or maybe (although less likely), she was a Boss fan herself.

* Violet.
** Three parts tequila, two parts triple sec, one part fresh squeezed lime juice. (Don't forget the salt on the rim!)


-R- said...

I am a practicing Catholic, but I went to public school. I could probably only name 3 of the stations of the cross.

Aaron said...

My childhood was so lacking in religion, I didn't even know I was "Protestant" until I was 18.

Anonymous said...

I've always been thankful for not being raised Catholic. I haven't tried to remember any of the church stuff I learned, but I bet somewhere, back there, the Lord's Prayer is lurking, possibly replaced with "She's a Maniac," which has been stuck in my head all morning.

Anonymous said...

Hee! This was super-cute.

Jess said...

Ugh. I would be traumatized by Fish Fridays too.

lizgwiz said...

With apologies to my devoutly Catholic friends, the Catholic church has turned more people against organized religion than any other church I know. Oh wait...I don't need that apology...I don't HAVE any devoutly Catholic friends. Only embittered former Catholic friends. Oh wait AGAIN...New Guy is devoutly Catholic. But he converted as an adult, so that's different, maybe. ;)

Anonymous said...

I went to Catholic school in first grade, made my Communion, and then said "what the hell am I doing?! I don't believe ANY of this!" and quit. One of my best friends from high school did become a nun though, and another went to Holy Cross, so I guess we didn't all go the way of the devil...

srah said...

I had never heard of the SOTC until I went to Jerusalem, where they're all marked with numbers. Doesn't do you much good unless you have them memorized or have a tour guide with you who knows them!

VermontRockies said...

You played the flute?

I'd have pegged you more as an oboist, or maybe a cellist. Something more mysterious and complicated.

metalia said...

This post really makes me want to write a post about my Orthodox Jewish high school experiences. :)

Stefanie said...

R--Well, that's still one more than I could name, and you didn't even have weekly repetition on your side. Good Catholic! :-)

Aaron--Now I want to see what my very Catholic mother would say to a Yoda on the top of the tree. (Troubled, she would be, I'm sure.)

Noelle--I would like to say a small prayer of thanks that "She's a Maniac" wasn't in MY head all morning after reading that.

Lara--Thanks, my friend. You are super-cute yourself.

Jess--I know, right? And it was never McDonald's Filet-o-Fish. THAT I would have eaten! (Disgusting, I know.)

Liz--I could list several reasons the Catholic church is not for me, but this isn't that sort of blog.

NPW--That is awesome. I love that you were a tiny heretic in first grade.

Srah--Good point. You should bring that up with the Vatican. ;-)

VermontStefanie--That is my favorite comment in weeks. I am mysterious and complicated. I love it. :-) (P.S. It was a small school. Oboe and cello weren't even an option.)

Metalia--Go for it, my dear!

Anonymous said...

i'm happy that i was raised as a catholic devotee, believing in one god.. i appreciate it very much..

Stefanie said...

Anonymous--If it works for you, that's cool by me. I definitely meant no offense, so I hope none was taken. I have my own issues with the Catholic Church, but I certainly don't begrudge anyone else finding meaning or community there.

srah said...

I wasn't raised Catholic so that probably has something to do with it. Seems like the Protestants ought to have gotten in on the SOTC action at some point, though.

I think Jerusalem doesn't fully label them in order to support the tour guide/guide book industry.