Monday, December 29, 2008

Ever Buy a Pagan Baby?

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 there 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 Asain 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.



Renovation Therapy said...

This might just be my favorite post of yours...extra special points for the Blues Brothers penguin reference.

Giuseppe said...

Wow! I just fell out my chair! Good job!

I too am a product of a parochial education. By thge time I was there, in the eighties, they had politically corrected much of the terminology, but the messages were basically the same. Then in High School I had those Catholic guerilla ninjas, the Jesuits.

I may be screwed in the head and unable to relate to modern society, but I'll be damned if I'm not better at long division and phonics.

Pagan Babies?!?!


News Readin' Wife said...

Ahhh, nuns. After 12 years of single-sex, parochial education at the hands of the life form known as nuns - I got a good laugh from this post.

The only good thing I can say about my Catholic school experience is my penmanship is incredible and I know every saint's feast day.

If Lisa Agnes rings the bell, I'm claiming Judaism.

Gladys said...

OMG! I'm crying here. i wasn't raised a Cataholic but I was raised a Bathtist and they were just as bad! I mean they made us all pledge to GAWD that we would become missionaries. I went home from school crying because I didn't want to live in Mozambic and eat monkey meat.

Gladys of the Incarcerated Mother of Holy Hell

Pigtown-Design said...

I should forward this to my mother, AKA Cookie the Catholic. She's still saying prayers for my sister who "lived in sin" with her fiance before they were married... and then while my sibs and I were at wedding (at the Greenbrier), she babysat one of my sisters children and HAD HER BAPTIZED!!!!!

Toad said...

For those who doubted me, another point of view. Had I seen this first, I would have never reopened my anxiety closet.

Toad said...

Meg, I can just about promise you that EVERY Catholic grandparent of a certain age baptized every child they ever babysat. Even if they attended the show at the church. Just in case.

Anonymous said...

Great post - sorry I just found it now. What I find funniest is that your "adoption certificate" names the child Susan.

I found that funny since my mother was to be named Susan, and a nun told my grandmother that it was not a saint's name. She was therefore baptized with a saint's name followed by Susan. The real irony is that there was a saint Susannah, which I think is close enough.

Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...

I am a victim too of catholic school and buying pagan babies. we would compete with the other grade classes to see who had bought the most pagan babies. we would give up our lunch and milk money just so we could buy pagan babies. Boy! they would do whatever it took to get us to give up our money. I went to a low income area elementary school and a lot of these parents could barely make ends meet. this angers me a lot!!

Anonymous said...

The term to identify us is "Recovering Catholic". I am still looking for a 12 step program, but they all wind up being Irish bars.

Saint Jerome

Anonymous said...

somehow the memory of pagan babies came to me today for the first time in many years so I decided to do a search. There was a kid in my class who brought in the whole 5 and so he got to pick the name. He chose Alfred Neuman, both Christian names, but when the nun found out the next day who Alfred E. Neuman was, she was fit to be tied.

margotdarby said...

Shallow idiot. No, man, I love you. But you're still a shallow idiot.