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Thread: The Catholic Child

  1. #1
    Registered User tallonrk1's Avatar
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    Dec 2012

    The Catholic Child

    The Catholic Child

    I always thought it queer when people referred to me as “the Catholic child”. I was only a five year old girl and even at that age it seemed a rather arrogant label to enslave someone to. I find that opinions concerning such ideas never truly solidify until later in life. But I went along with it through my childhood, and became confused as to why people never referred to me as “the Republican child”. My parents were Republican, therefore I assumed that’s how I would be perceived, if consistency was of any value. Regardless, it seemed more accurate to label me “the child of Catholic parents” or at least something less overbearing.

    My parents placed me in an all-girl Catholic school, and I had few complaints, except for the dull and refined uniforms. All grey and covered the entire body from the neck down. My friends joked that the uniforms should also cover the neck, in case any vampires found our skin enticing. I preferred things to be more gaudy, and why not? I never saw anything wrong with individuality. The nuns were ruthless: they snapped if anyone so much as looked at another person in a funny way; and corporal punishment was not prohibited. There was an endless list of strict rules, but at least silence, as well as breathing, was always permitted. And while we were expected to be good and precious little Catholic girls, no one really was once the bell rang. This became increasingly truthful as I began to enter my teen years at the school. I’d surmise that there was just as much sin at the school as there was anywhere else. I always found it humorous that parents actually thought putting children in all-girl schools would keep them away from boys. Though I remained uninterested, I never really saw the harm in them. I had a sufficient number of friends, none more so than anyone else, but no less either. I was simply average—a young, average, Catholic girl.

    Family time was of the utmost importance in the house. It was just like your average household: father, mother, me, and my little brother. Nothing out of ordinary; nothing out of place; nothing but large smiles and an atmosphere reminiscent of Victorian era politeness. Father worked all the time and I rarely got to see him. He’d come home, turn on Fox News, complain about the moral compass of the country, and then go to bed. This is how it was every night with him, he was even a grump on the weekend; we all preferred to just leave him alone. But my mother was a homemaker, and for this reason we have always been very close. She would teach me how to perform the activities designated to the woman of a household. I went along with it, but there was always a nagging in my subconscious telling me that something was wrong with the picture.

    “Hey honey, how was your day?” was the first thing my mother would ask me upon returning home from school every day. She was washing the dishes.

    “Good, today we learned about how God created man out of mud, and how he created woman out of the rib of man!”

    “Oh, how enlightening! Genesis has always been a favorite of mine. Really a shame it isn’t in the New Testament, but that doesn’t make it any less true in my eyes!” she chuckled to herself. At this point in this specific encounter I had turned the corner and was about to go into my room, but there was something I needed to get off my chest to her.

    “Mother?” I said in a barely audible whimper.

    “Yes dear?” a look of concern grew on her face.

    “If I ever find myself struggling with my faith, would you still accept me?”

    “Well…” she looked incredulous, the question came out of nowhere, “I would most certainly try to help you. You have to appreciative of what God has granted you.”

    “But that’s not what I’m asking” she paused her dish washing and turned around to look me in the eyes. The frustration was building.

    “Look around this house. Do you see how lucky you are? How could you not praise the Lord and be thankful for everything he’s given you? It’s ridiculous…” she paused and gave her voice more intensity, “it’s blasphemy!”

    “Yes I know mother, I am, I just want to know if you would accept me if it ever happened.” she bit her tongue, I half expected her to reply by saying it won’t happen. She sighed, and ran her fingers through her hair.

    “I will always love you. Just like God. There may be repercussions, but I will always love you. You will always be my little Catholic child.”

    Undisputedly, the most valuable moments of family time was going to church. My family would trudge through the whole week, but filled with hope as Sunday morning would get closer and closer with each day. Personally, going to church was probably my least favorite activity that I had to deal with throughout the week. Luckily, our church only studied the New Testament, though I feel the Old Testament would be more exciting with all the mass murders and genocide that was carried out in it. Still there was something that concerned me with the New Testament: the idea that God had to sacrifice himself in order to forgive all of humanity for a sin that two separate individuals committed in ages past, rather than simply forgiving all of humanity in the first place, struck me as illogical. But I guess that’s just one of the mysterious ways that God works.

    Upon arriving at the church we would always sit next to the Goods. Our family has been friends with the Goods forever, and I knew their daughter pretty well; she went to my school at least. The pastor always liked to open up the sermon with a personal experience.

    “Last night, the Holy Ghost came to me in my sleep. And he told me there are people amongst this congregation who have sinned. He told me the only way to redeem themselves is through salvation!”

    Everyone else seemed interested, but I found it rather humdrum. Listening to a guy rant about how he has been filled with the Holy Ghost has never really been my cup of tea.

    “Do you believe any of this stuff?” I whispered to the Goods’ daughter. She just glared at me and went back to listening to the pastor.

    “Shh, don’t talk during a sermon. Have you lost your mind! God is watching.” my mother scolded me with a stern look. I dozed off for the rest of the sermon.

    All was well in my life at this point, but as I became older, sixteen years old, things started changing. A new girl transferred into the school that year, and I had become one of her first friends in the school. We had similar interests and could hold a conversation together for hours on end. A month later and we were as good as best friends, and all was well. But as I learned more about her I grew to have an even greater connection with her. A stronger connection than she even knew. I would like to say that I admired her, but it was more than that…much more than that.

    But it wasn’t normal. It wasn’t natural. It wasn’t just her personality I admired, but also her shiny black hair, her luscious lips, and her extravagant body. Oh if the Lord could hear my thoughts. Has he heard my thoughts? Have I sinned already? Surely he would have struck me dead right then and there if he could.

    At the same time my nights grew sleepless, tossing and turning in bed, squirming and writhing as I began to have recurring nightmares of Hell. The fire and brimstone and torture and pain and suffering became all too real. Soon every moment of every day was filled with wariness and skittishness, especially when I was around my new best friend. It became too much to handle. Trying to control every thought and being cautious as to every step I took grew tiring. I thought of seeking help from my mother but then I would be left to her judgment and what would she think of me? Would she think I’ve gone mad? Have I gone mad? The stress accrued as I contemplated every outcome, but regardless I knew it was the only option. She was the only person who loved me more than anything else.

    “Hey honey, how was school?” my mother said in a most cheery tone. She was washing the dishes.

    “Good…” I stuttered. My mother shut off the water, dropped the dishes, and turned around. She could always tell when something was bothering me.

    “Ok, spill the beans, what’s on your mind?” I was frozen in place. Tears began to well up in my eyes. Mother reacted accordingly and gave me a hug.

    “There, there. Just tell me what’s wrong, it’ll be okay. God’s the only one who can judge.”

    “Mother I…I think I’ve fallen in love”

    “Oh dear,” my mother chuckled and let out a sigh of relief. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s completely natural! God invented love so that we could help Him in creating the little babies of—“

    “No, mom; you don’t understand,” her face became puzzled and perplexed, “I’ve fallen in love with a woman.”

    She dropped her arms and backed away from me. Her breathing became a rapid swirl of emotion. She was more than helpless. She pressed her temples between her palms, closed her eyes, and bit her lip. She spoke in a tone of diminutive understanding.

    “Have I done wrong? Was I not a good mother? How could this happen? You’ve always been a good Catholic child,” she said incredulously. But her bewilderment subsided and transformed into a fury of frustration.

    “I will not have a sinner living under my roof. You’re not my daughter. Get out!”

    “But mother, please, I have only sinned by thought, I’ve done nothing wrong! I haven’t hurt anyone, I’ve simply loved!”

    “Do you think that matters to God? He knows what you think and I won’t risk spending my afterlife in Hell by permitting a sinner under my roof! You better hope you repent and ask for the forgiveness of the Lord.”

    And so I ran, with tears streaming down my face and searing into the gaps in my heart. The world seemed to be spinning, the sky a blood-red, and the clouds were wearing horns. I was now certain that my nightmares were not of Hell, but of reality. I questioned God’s reasoning for allowing this to occur, but of course there was no answer. There never is an answer.

    With the small amount of money I had with me, I rented a hotel room for the night. And so I went to sleep.

    The sun rose the next morning

    And I was still asleep.

    The sun set behind the mountains that I one day aspired to climb. The moon rose up over the cross on the top of the church, looming out over city. The sun rose again, setting the cross on fire,

    And I was still asleep.

    My mother found me that morning,

    But it was too late. The shattered heart that transfixed me was on its last thread. There was nothing but fear running through my veins. Fear of God’s wrath. Fear of the eternal torture that I was soon to endure.

    I could still hear her voice whimpering and shrieking in remorse in the distance as the world faded away from my senses,
    “I’m so sorry my Catholic child; I’ll pray for you.”

    …And then, there was nothing.
    Last edited by tallonrk1; 01-04-2013 at 05:06 AM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    You can obviously write but this was rather boring. All that telling, all that background to a story which goes absolutely nowhere. It's like we're all observing it from a safe, detached distance, not feeling anything for the N whose deep connection with her family is not established in the telling so we don't care when she is rejected anyway.

    I think you should drop some of the detail and replace it with active dialogue. Since you're writing in the past and referring to ways of life, you can animate it for the reader so they actually feel what it is you're taking so much time to tell. Examples of the ruthless nuns, the ritual services, the introduction of the friend who in your story is mysterious. These can all be given a voice to place the reader into the world of a Catholic Girl. The reader needs to appreciate what is at stake and they will when it is balanced by a blossoming dialogue between the friends and other situations.

    As it is, the end seems overly dramatic but perhaps it would not if there is actually a culminative point in the story. Mother and daughter seem like absolute strangers despite the story telling us otherwise. The reader just doesn't feel it because there is no active interaction occurring to move us.

    Consider an edit since you write rather well and can do more with this.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  3. #3
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    You know how to write and you kept me reading. . . but, parts of this were rather humdrum. Learning to bake and do laundry - hardly an enthralling chapter in your childhood history. Also I felt let down by the ending because there was no believable resolution. The girl who 'sinned by thought' died in her sleep (how and why?) so all is well with the world.

    I was also puzzled why a child who was sent to a Catholic school was called 'the Catholic child'. Since there are no other characters mentioned in your story I assumed you were called this name by your parents or friends - but that makes no sense.

    An interesting post but I don't think you're exploring the story (or pushing your writing) to its full potential here.


  4. #4
    Registered User tallonrk1's Avatar
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    Wow I didn't expect this great of feedback! Thank you so much, both of you, I really appreciate the criticism

  5. #5
    Registered User tallonrk1's Avatar
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    I revised it. Added a lot more dialogue and "showing". Hopefully it allows the reader to experience the story much more thoroughly now.

  6. #6
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    I agree with Delta that there is more "telling" than "showing" in this piece. And as others have pointed out, referring to the narrator as "the Catholic child" is a little bizarre. Exactly who calls her that? Certainly not her own family nor her schoolmates, presumably all Catholics themselves.

    Admittedly, fiction is not required to be factual-- if anything, it's generally accepted to be the opposite, but -- and this really sticks, as they say, in my craw -- I don't buy this story for one blessed minute. The plot, characters, dialogue have to be plausible at least. That's a dictum that goes all the way back to Aristotle.

    There isn't one shred of verisimilitude in the entire piece. Yours fooly had what one might call a "Catholic girlhood," though probably not the same as that of Mary McCarthy. Still, we never referred to "going to Church on Sunday," it was going to or attending Mass. We were more likely to refer to the clergyman as a priest, rather than a "pastor." And the ranting sermon in your story sounds more like it was coming from a fundamentalist preacher than from a priest delivering the homily based on that day's reading from scripture. No priest ever accused any parishoner of being a sinner, at least publicly from the altar in front of the Consecrated Host.

    I believe your notion of Catholic school comes from movies and snarky stand-up comics. Sure Catholic schools have strict teachers -- you'll find them anywhere-- and these days you're
    more likely to find lay teachers rather than nuns, because of the shortage of women entering the convent.

    The part about the mother rejecting the narrator because she "outs" herself as gay could be lifted to form the basis of a different, separate story. But if I were you, I'd leave the Catholic element out -- not because it's "bashing" but because you didn't get it right.

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