Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ever buy a Pagan Baby? Redux

I'm up to my ears in wood shavings and paint attempting to finish the wainscotting by the end of the week. So until tomorrow, please accept my apologies, and a replay of my favorite post. See you tomorrow.

Most of my childhood education was spent in the hands of parochial schools, back in the days when nuns ruled the universe. The nonsense they taught made you almost unfit for humankind.

For those of you whom your parents loved enough to send you to public schools, or those who came in the pre-post reform days, think of Jake and Elwood Blues at the hands of the good sister in Blue's Brothers. The scene in the movie where the boys go back to see the Penguin was not a joke to anyone educated in 1960's catholic schools.

Somehow they got away with the most egregious crap, but even the nuns knew they could carry it only so far, so to test the boundaries, they invented buying pagan babies. Let me explain.

One thing Catholic churches love is money, hard spendable cash, and someone, somewhere saw that the Easter Seals had a cash cow. RC's needed a similar scheme, so stole the idea, and moved the season to Christmas. Just after Thanksgiving, thousands of little Catholic kids were given books of missionary stamps and told to sell them to support foreign refugee camps and missionary priests, at a penny a pop, or a whole book for a buck. Money was due, and collections took place on Friday mornings.

Once your class collected a fin, you were entitled to buy a pagan baby. Best of all, it came with naming rights, and a certificate of authenticity.

Now, Catholic teaching is very particular about naming options for children. Either the first or second name had to be the name of a saint. No exceptions. When in doubt read a map of France. The Church in France put an St or Ste. in front of every pagan location name, and created innumerable saints.

So imagine its getting close to the holidays. The kids are wound up, its Friday, they've collected their fiver and its time to name their new pagan baby. The rules were the kids raised the money, the kids got to name. If you think there are a lot of post pagan adults in central Africa/Asia named Mary Catherine or James Joseph guess again.

My class and most people I have talked to went all out. Depending on how much your teacher would let your class get away with, some of the names were spectacular. Especially the Asian kids who had many r's in their names.

Many Catholic school educated adults of my generation live in great fear of getting that knock on the door late at night. You open the door, an African or Asian man or woman a bit younger than you is at the door. You ask how may I help you?

Daddy, its me Joseph Vanilla Wafers, don't you remember me?

Wishing, won't make it go away.



Martha said...

As a non-Catholic I lived a sheltered life . . . but I do enjoy hearing the tales of Catholic school -- those nuns must have been something!

I thought all Catholic girls were named Mary, Mary Margaret or Margaret Mary?

Toad said...

True story, but I am not going to look up the particulars.

In around 1948 to celebrate the ending of WW2 the pope declared the following year the year of Mary, Jesus's mother. It was damn near law that catholic girls born in the late 40's early 50 were named Mary, or Mary Jane, Mary Susan, ...

It feels like all Irish girls are still named Mary something

David V said...

St. Roman alum, 1958-1965.
As I recall, most of the kids who got a wallop deserved that wallop and are better people for it.
I don't remember anything too egregious but I was often accused of not applying myself and not paying attention. Both of which were true.

LPC said...

Sent my kids to Catholic high school, although I am not Catholic myself. Daughter came home from first school visit, saying she liked the place but boy there were a lot of Jesuses on a stick. Ooops. Four years of religious studies later she had figured it out.

Anonymous said...

I went through that Name a Pagan Baby fundraiser. It got competitive, with all those name certificates on the walls, and I duked it out with the rich girl in class. I lost.

Many years later I'd realize the absurdity of naming some stranger's kid, and I refuse to donate any money to anyone ever since.

LOL but it's good to see I'm not the only one who went through that.