Although my parents promptly baptized me just one week after my birth, we weren’t a family that regularly practiced their faith. The memories of my family praying together or attending Mass are few. One of my most vivid Christmas memories comes from sitting at the bottom of our basement stairs waiting for my dad to come home from Christmas Eve Mass.

Chrismas Memories

Our family tradition was to open one gift on Christmas Eve. That year, my mother had purchased the number one item on my wishlist — a Barbie beautician doll. A nearly life-sized head with a full set of hair you could style along with blue eyeshadow and pink rouge you could apply. It came in a telltale hexagon box, which my mother did very little to mask in her wrapping. The waiting felt endless, the start to my long-held notion that church went on forever.

My most unforgettable childhood church memory involved my brother, the name of a dearly departed woman, and losing TV privileges for a week. During the Prayer of the Faithful an intention was offered for one, “Merry Perry.” It was one of those moments when you know it is best not to make eye contact with your sibling. You know that moment between an uncontrollable giggle fit and retaining your composure is in a delicate balance, yet, you cannot help yourself.

That moment you glance at your sibling, then spend the next ten minutes fighting to squelch the giggles. You bite your tongue, try praying, pinch the back of your arm, all to no avail. The laughter bursts forth, the tears stream down your face, and the next thing you know, watching television is gone for the week!

No Experience Necessary

My experiences of praying at home as a child were limited. As a small child, I remember kneeling on a little convertible stool with the “Now I Lay Me Down” prayer stencilled on it. You know the one where we tell kids there is a possibility they will die in their sleep, and then wonder why they won’t go to sleep.

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We only prayed as a family during thunderstorms. My father worked evenings, and my mother was petrified of storms. She would unplug everything in the house and then line the three children on the couch to pray the Rosary. Then my house was struck by lightning.

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