Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Of Sandstone, Flesh, and the Age of Pre-Reason

AKA Aryan Infant

Last month I learned that the church where I was whipped into shape for decade, at least, had been declared historic. The old sandstone St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is being refurbished for use by Catholic Charities. Oh, yeah, construction on the church began in 1941.

Construction on me started in 1948, so I've got only a few more years before tourists start taking pictures. Or the homeless come to take up residence.

For my entire career as an altar boy, Father Kessler, who came to the parish in the 1930's and oversaw building the church, was raising money to build a school. See, our parochial education came via nuns based in Denver who could only leave their regular gigs for the summer months to teach in our "Sister School." The Protestant kids got to spend a week in church camp where they learned all about sex. We spent the whole summer memorizing the Baltimore Catechism, gambling for holy cards and scapulas, and waiting for the Methodists to get back in town.

The school never was built, though Fr. Kessler did purchase land for it before he died in the mid-1960s. The new church stands there today. (The church history says they had to fumigate the rectory after he passed on, due to all his pet monkeys. I recall a parrot, but no monkeys, and no smell but the sweet slipstream of the Chesterfields he would light up on the way out to the cemetery in his Lincoln, the first car I'd seen with power windows.)

We were told we'd be ready for instruction once we'd reached the "age of reason"—the point around age seven when we were supposed to begin being morally responsible. It sounded about right to me at the time, perhaps a slight stretch, but I planned to catch up by asking Santa for Bible. (I thought exhibiting early piety couldn't hurt in the rest of the gift department, either.)

Much later, I heard reason wasn't enough. We must reenter the state of pre-reason and become "born again." And since the White House is looking more and more like at least the anteroom to the Kingdom of Heaven, maybe we should listen up.

Post-election, Democratic strategist James Carville said, "The underlying problem here is, there is no call to arms that the Democratic Party is making to the country. We've got to reassess ourselves. We've got to be born again."

I'm all for that. But no monkeys.


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