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Thursday, January 25, 2007


You think the strangest things when you're a kid.

In the Philadelphia television viewing area in the 1960s, we kids faithfully watched Sally Starr, a cowgirl kiddie show host, every weekday after school and before dinner. "Our Gal Sal" showed Popeye cartoons and Three Stooges shorts.

We knew, even as kids, that the Stooges shorts were from another time. We could tell this from the cars and the fashions and the haircuts and the music and the lingo. But there was no generation gap here -- all of us kids ADORED the Stooges, especially the manic, hilarious, childlike Curly.

One day, my mom happened to mention that in real life, Curly was dead. (Moe and Larry were still alive at the time.) This bit of sad news FREAKED ME OUT. I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that this sweet, funny man was making me laugh right now, and yet he died a long time ago.

At Holy Rosary School in the Camden Diocese in the 1960s, the younger grades were taken for a bathroom break every morning. We all stood in line, two-by-two, by the big rest rooms next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. Five us went in at a time, while the others were supposed to stand patiently and wait, something like statues ourselves. Of course, kids being kids, it didn't always work that way. Sometimes, we misbehaved -- whispered or laughed or even shoved each other.

One day when this happened, Sister became angry and said, "Instead of fooling around, gentlemen, you should be saying prayers for the souls in Purgatory." (To non-Catholics: Purgatory was a kind of "way station" where you would go upon your death if you were bound for heaven, but still had venial sins on your soul. I haven't kept up as much as I should, but I believe Purgatory is no longer taught.)

Sister continued: "There may be a soul in Purgatory who needs just one more Hail Mary to get to Heaven. If you say that Hail Mary, and that soul gets to Heaven, he or she will watch over you for the rest of your life."

In my child's mind, I fantasized that I was saying the VERY LAST HAIL MARY that Curly of the Three Stooges needed to get to Heaven. As I finished the prayer, I looked up and had a very strong fantasy that I could see Curly in a flowing white robe with wings and a halo, floating up to Heaven. I could even hear a harp being strummed as he rose. Curly was smiling down at me -- one of those goofy Curly smiles -- and waving.

You think the strangest things when you're a kid.


Blogger margaret said...

Purgatory is "still taught". Limbo, the place for unbaptized babies, is making a departure. Catholic bishops and those who keep up with canon law have realized God just wouldn't be so cruel. Why did it take them so long to realize that? A no-brainer for me even as a child.

6:48 AM, January 26, 2007  
Anonymous Lapsed Catholic said...

When I pictured Limbo, it was a place with a lot of crying babies and no adults to take care of them.

1:02 PM, January 28, 2007  

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