Monday, November 17, 2014

My Catholic Childhood

Some of you must be thinking that I've fallen off the deep-end. You can end up with a true conclusion but be operating from false premises.

Yes, I joined the Church at 17. I had no Catholic childhood, for better or for worse. For better in that it cannot be said that I was inoculated against the Faith by means of poor example, as so many have. My teachers in the Faith were all of history's greats via books: Augustine, Benedict, Francis. I had no tepid Catholics to scandalize me.

But, as I meander about this basement amongst a bunch of things, including boxes of my children's books, which I eye thoughtfully, thinking of the best ones to present in the Catholic Review of Books, a certain warmness comes into my heart when I think of all the great literature that we have been able to expose our kids to over the years. So much of it is from Seton, you know, those sweeter-than-sweet books they have for kids associated with their home-schooling program? If you don't know them, you probably should. Do so here.

Why should I? you ask.

No, it is not great literature, most of it, anyway. But it is good literature, and for as much as I am the number one snobinator in the Church in North America when it comes to Catholic literature, when it comes to young children I whole-heartedly endorse Seton's saccharine sweetness. We have to have such innocence in our childhood! Even my secular upbringing had this kind of thing in it - no, not exactly as my wife and I had wished it upon our children - but I think the fact that I can love the good at all, means that it must have been presented to me in some blatant manner then.

So, my basement is full of boxes of my Catholic childhood memories. And, again with reference to Seton, my head is full of sweet music too. You may laugh at me, but there is something ever so charming about blatantly Catholic music. No, not for adults, but for kids.

To a large extent you have to put childish things away at a certain point. I positively despise Disney, especially how it grabs adults. I am a little snobbish when it comes to music too. Frozen's 'Let it Go' is bad, just as bad Catholic literature and songs are bad - bad for adults. Some people want to live in perpetual childhood. But nostalgia doesn't have to be that, though.
Greatest. CD. Ever.

It seems that kids are the only ones we permit to love the good-in-itself. They are the only ones to whom we say "Do not lie," for instance, or use bad language, steal, etc. We hold children to a higher standard than we would ever think to hold adults, for some reason. Augustine used to complain that Romans held women to a higher moral standard than men. He took it as an insult on behalf of all men. I take it as an insult that people permit my lies, my language, my thefts. Am I not worthy to be as good as a child?

Someday I would like to be Seton Books good. But as an adult.

And, neither Augustine and I got to receive the grace of infant baptism. We could complain that it's not fair, but that's not really productive. God gives the grace of a Christian childhood to people in different ways. I began to experience mine soon after Isaiah was born.

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