Fantastic Life Lessons Learned After Going to Catholic Schools For 13+ Years

I’m probably going to Hell for this  anyways.

I should've been a model for Dennis uniform. Right? I know, I missed my calling.
I should’ve been a model for Dennis uniform. Right? I know, I missed my calling.

I’m not a deeply religious person. I still say a prayer every now and then, you know, to let God know I’m still here and that I wish to be graced with his presence… but for the most part, I wouldn’t say I identify with religion anymore. I do, however, believe in the spirituality of Christianity. But after growing up and seeing the world for what it is, I don’t believe in the Church, the hierarchy nor the political structure (although I must say, Pope Francis is pretty kickass). I was raised Catholic – by that I mean that my parents put me in a Catholic elementary K-8 school, but by no means forced religion on me. I embraced it and chose to go to an all-girls Catholic high school, to be followed by a year at a private Catholic university. I’m Catholic, but am not “practicing”, I guess you can say. My upbringing did have a heavy influence on who I am, and I hope the sarcastic manner I write is obvious and I am by no means making fun of, skeptical, nor cynical of religion, my upbringing, nor am I trying to prove a point here. With that in mind, let’s discuss the fantastic life lessons I’ve learned from my Catholic schooling.

How to Dress Properly

I cannot stress how uniform code defined my teenage years. Being dictated to wear a plaid jumper, later a plaid pleated skirt, to later a skort, to finally a pleated skirt – to not putting nail polish on my nails, to not wearing eye makeup was highly influential in my formative years (also, the length of your jumper/skort/skirt defined the adolescent Catholic school girl. Thanks Mom, for hemming my jumpers/skort/skirt so I didn’t show up to school looking like a Laura Ingalls Wilder  imagined character from Little House on the Prairie). Conformity was key here, but also – you learned how to add your own personal touch to your mundane every day get up. Biggest lesson learned besides tucking in my shirt every day? How to roll out of bed a hot mess and throw something on. The uniform somewhat tied it together – or maybe it just said “We’re all hot messes, and we’re all in this together.” Am I right NDHSB ladies?

Memorization is Key

I cannot tell you how many prayers/adorations/bible verses I was forced down my throat. Which is fine. I get it. My parents paid for Catholic schooling and GOSH DARNIT, JESUS CHRIST WILL TOUCH MY SOUL OR ELSE! Fridays when the school would gather to say the rosary were the bane of my existence. Each person would have to stand up and say the part of the prayer and it was terrifying. It not only ensured that you memorized the 5 different prayers, etc. but also that you were paying attention and weren’t spacing off watching the church candles flicker (as I often did). We are going to pray and you better know it!… or else you will be publicly humiliated. Also, I remember having to memorize the Act of Contrition so hard in like second grade that when the big day to get my First Reconciliation (for those of you who are clearly going to Hell for not knowing this, its when you first see a priest and ask for forgiveness of your sins), I probably almost peed and shook like a tree when talking to the priest in fear that I would mess up a line or forget a word.

Self Deprecation is Healthy

Right? Like, a little bit of it at least. As I mentioned before, Reconciliation and going to confession every so often is major in Catholic schools. What better way to step back and look at your life choices than to go to confession, sit in a box, or in front of a priest, and expose all of your sins? My elementary school confessions would go something like this:

Bless me Father for I have sinned. I was mean to my Dad. I talked back to my Mom. I didn’t say thank you to Ana [my babysitter]. I don’t do my chores all the time. I fought with my sister. Sometimes I am mean to my friends. I lied to my teacher about my homework. Sometimes I am mean to my parents. 

… and so forth. After, the priest would tell you even though you’ve “sinned”, hey you really are a good person and God loves you. Also, go say like 10 Hail Marys and we’ll call it a clean slate. Your elementary school self was supposed to reflect on your wrong doings, decide to be a better person and voila! Did a wave of relief wash over me? No. But being able to look back on all the shitty things you did was always a good thing. Like, damn. I could be a better chick. You know? Luckily, confession in high school was optional, yet my Catholic guilt made me go anyways.

Also, Fat Tuesday before Lent was when you could EAT EVERYTHING! Kind of.

To go along with the theme of self deprecation, right after Mardi Gras Lent starts (for all of you secular beings). In my formative years, the 40 days of Lent was essentially a challenge among peers to see what people were “giving up” and whos was more “sacrificial”. Some people would give up swearing, some would give up sweets. I remember one time my Mom gave up coffee – needless to say it probably wasn’t a great 40 days for her, nor for the rest of my family. When I was particularly indulgent as a youngin’, I gave up rice (yeah, that happened – I am Asian, afterall). But I really don’t think that lasted long. Your sacrifice during these 40 days of Lent was to go along side Jesus’ sacrifice. Yeah, like my lack of consuming rice is anywhere near comparable to giving yourself up to a higher power. 

Patience Is A Virtue

Okay so maybe this is a secular thing too, but remember Advent calendars? For some reason I remember not being able TO POSSIBLY CONTAIN MYSELF from opening all of the little cut out doors of the 25 days of December to EAT ALL OF THE CHOCOLATE! Also, as a pretty young kid, I remember Communion during Mass to be such an awesome thing – like, all of the grownups (definition of grownups included third graders and up) got to go up and get Communion. So when your First Holy Communion came around you just COULD NOT WAIT to get in your little white dress, look all angelic and shit, and finally… FINALLY get that Jesus cracker. And the wine?!

Leave Room For The Holy Spirit

What about Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz “Get Low” says GET LOW? EVERYTHING. My Youth Ministry growing up hosted middle school dances where this. was. my. jam. But then again, there were chaperones who would make sure you were, indeed, “Leaving room for the Holy Spirit”. You’d turn to the person you were dancing with and say, “You, me and J.C.!”. Just kidding, but catchy! No?! Also, even though my Catholic high school was pretty liberal in terms that they did have some semblance of sex-education, we still got bombarded with the There are Better Things To Do than Have Sex, talk. Also, please read that, its mildly entertaining. My favorites include #23: Fly a kite in your backyard, #28 Build a clubhouse and #55: Take a nap. Mind you, I got a pamphlet like this in high school.

Morbid Sense of Humor

Don’t be a martyr like St. Sebastian. Is that the lesson? I’m confused.

Most people don’t get my sense of humor when I say shit like, “Don’t be a martyr like Saint Sebastian!” (JK, I don’t really say that stuff) Because they probably don’t understand that Saint Sebastian was a Christian dude that was killed during Diocletian’s Christian persecution. Part of growing up in Catholic schools was to learn about the Saints. At a pretty early age you learn all of the different ways one can be killed/persecuted/put to death. Stoning, shot by arrows, beaten, eaten by snakes, I don’t know. I learned that livin aint easy for the Christians back then.

We all suck, but it’s okay!

The very fact that confession is a thing, and the very premise around Easter teaches us that we’re kind of pretty shitty human beings. Like, you sin. You lie. So does everyone else, but God loves you anyways. In essence, we’re all walking pieces of poop roaming the earth.

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