I remember your wonders of old. Psalm 77:12
I don’t know about other people my age, but I sometimes feel that my mind is a bulging scrapbook of random memories. I have long been fascinated by what I remember and why. For some reason unknown to me, many of my most vivid memories come from ages five, six and seven.
Most of those memories are trivial little things, but every detail in them seem so vivid after these many, many years. It’s like a moment lasting all of a few seconds, but the memory of it lasting forever. Here are a few of those memory snippets from my scrapbook.
In December, I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass at my home parish of St. Theresa down in Meade County. As I was sitting there after communion, I looked over at a very specific spot on the edge of the platform, where the old communion rail used to be. All of a sudden, I remembered it as the precise spot where I received my first communion.
Decked out in a very stiff white suit, I remembered myself putting my hands under the crisply-ironed communion rail cloth that the altar boys flipped back over the rail to catch the host if the priest dropped it trying to get it onto your tongue.
At age five, I can remember my mother rocking me to sleep for a nap on a breezy spring afternoon, with the “sheers” gently and silently flapping in the breeze in front of me. I had her to myself. It was heaven!
I can remember being six and being in a hallway of the sisters’ quarters of the old St. Theresa Academy, where I attended the first grade. What I remember was seeing a jar of Necco Wafers on top of a cabinet. I remember standing there not being able to wrap my mind around the idea that anyone would actually have that many, without eating all them right away.
I can remember the first time I saw TV in 1950 and precisely what I saw — a woman ironing the wings of an angel costume. Also, I can remember being panicked by the sight of one, particular ugly scoop of liver paste on my tray in the school cafeteria in the first grade. I can clearly remember, at age six, secretly “trying on” Father Henry Vessels’s Roman collar, which I found lying on a bed while he was visiting one of his relatives, our neighbors.
I don’t know why people remember some things and forget others — like remembering the feel of the velour seats of their grandfather’s old Hudson, but not what they had for breakfast.
When it comes to religion, I am convinced that those of us who do remain in the church do so, not because it is rational, but because we have more memorable good religious experiences than bad ones. Maybe the secret to the “new evangelization” is about giving people good experiences more than good information?
Father J. Ronald Knott