“Lust” I Lisped

That Dick and Jane series I referenced yesterday wasn’t the reading book I had as a tyke. I had the John, Jean and Judy series made expressly for Catholic school kids and chock full of what the publisher called “religious elements”. I had so many religious elements in my life as it was it’s no wonder I thought I was having religious visions when I fainted in church. Even in our house we had holy water fonts, statues of Jesus, outfits for the statues of Jesus and on and on, all sold to us by those excellent businesswomen the nuns.

Then every night for homework and every fear-filled day at school we had…. The Baltimore Catechism.

Catholic school kids learned to memorize, I’ll say that. We could recite both the answers AND the questions from that little blue book, waking or sleeping, forward or back, ornate language and all. Even today I can give it to you: “Question: What are the sins against hope?” “Answer: The sins against hope are presumption and despair.”

I was in Second Grade when I learned that one. and didn’t my mother wince when in front of a roomful of company I dished up the Seven Deadly Sins: “ Pride, Covetousness,  Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth” I whispered sweetly. “And … and what is that other one Nan?”

“Lust” said my big sister, who was all of nine.

“Lust”  I lisped with my toothless little-kid smile.

Turns out this sin-drenched curriculum didn’t just belong to the  Catholics. The New England Primer was a textbook used by students in English settlements in North America from the time of its publication is 1690 until at least halfway through the 19th century. Over five million copies were sold. As the source I just read says it combined the traditional alphabet study with Biblical precepts. “Emphasis was placed on fear of sin, God’s punishment and the fact that all people would have to face death.” Cheerful!

Take these few examples from early in the alphabet: For the letter A, “In Adam’s Fall We sinned all”, for B, “Thy Life to Mend This Book Attend, for I “The Idle Fool Is Whipt at School.”

Shake my head as they say.  Just kinda makes ya wonder what we’ll be teaching the poor kids next.

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11 thoughts on ““Lust” I Lisped

  1. See, now I had that whole sin against Hope thing confused. I always thought it was about Hope O’Toole who sat across the aisle from me, in backward alphabetical order. She had “blossomed” over the summer between 7th and 8th grade. And presumption and despair we’re pretty much all you got with Hope.

    Now her sister, Charity, was a whole other story….

    You had dress up Jesus in your house? Gotta love it!

    No wonder we blog. Better than paying a shrink….

  2. I remember the Seven Deadly Sins better than I remember the way my dad helped us to remember them. They were keyed to the names of cereals. The Gifts of the Holy Ghost were associated with the names of dog food. I suppose by doing that, dad set us up for Purgatory for sure.

  3. Don’t worry, Joan. It’s been reported that accumulated Purgatory time has been reduced by up to 63% due to time spent conducting business in any state motor vehicle offices or other such bureaucratic governmental agency in the course of a lifetime.

    Time spent in limbo has also seen a marked decrease due to time spent navigating automated customer service menus, time spent on hold with doctor’s offices and insurance companies, not to mention time spent waiting for the cable guy to show up….

  4. Boy, books like that! And now some people want to ban, “My Two Mommies” from school. I think yours is a lot scarier…

  5. Great blog today! It brings back lots of memories for me. I didn’t go to Catholic school, but I attended Sunday religious classes every week after mass until I made my Confirmation in 6th grade. Those were the days when only nuns taught religious classes. I remember having to memorize the answers to all the questions at the end of each chapter of the catechizm. The nun would randomly call on each student to stand up in front of the class to answer the questions. If one word was off, you were wrong and had to sit down. The nuns were real strict and didn’t care much for us public school kids.

    I love the purgatory piece! I haven’t heard anything about “limbo” in a long time. Is it really gone? We also had holy water in our house as well. Those were fun days!!!

  6. so true. And how many of us know households run by two mommies or two dads. If you have HBO search tirelessly until you find a showing of A Family is a Family is a Family so you can DVR it .
    Our modern American family watched it last Easter with Mike’s 2 nephews 7 and 4 who are blessed to have a Mama AND a Mum. 🙂

  7. I had a friend who was raised without any religion. She told me that when she became an adult she accepted one of the Protestant religions. Then, she married a Catholic man and raised her children as Catholic. Her kids always went to mass with their dad. She, on the other hand, did not practice any religion at all, because she “truly does not believe in anything”. It upset her and she blamed her parents for not raising her with religion. She envies her husband because he truly believes in God.

    Although people may change their religion or not practice it as adults, what we believed in those young developmental years has shaped who we are today. Lots of people deny it, but deep down they believe, just like the friend who wants to believe, but hasn’t a basis for any belief.

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