Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sadie and a Hail Mary

For the last week Sadie has been counting down the days to this morning.  We had a meeting for a new club/activity/organization that she's joined and after going to the open house and talking with some of the girls involved in it we were both really excited that she was going to be able to be involved.

This morning we loaded up the car and left Paul with the babies and headed out of the house.  Sadie looked at me and said "I should have brought my winter jacket" as she felt the not-really-cold-at-all air (she may be in for quite the awakening when it actually gets below 60...) as we piled into the car and headed north.

We were a few minutes early, so we helped one of the girls unload a troop leaders car, and then I sat down to knit while Sadie fluttered around the room giggling and talking with the other girls as they arrived.

We stood for the pledge and said the declaration of faith (I'd checked it carefully before registering online and had made sure it was something we could say, although I was fairly certain there wouldn't be a problem since we have other Catholic friends involved in the same organization in other states) and then we settled in for the faith presentation.

If you'd asked me beforehand what I was expecting I would have guessed something light and fluffy and not particularly contentious.  After all, this girls' group doesn't have a particular denomination.

The topic came up and was prayer and I found myself holding my breath.   The first question asked was "what is prayer?" and Sadie's little hand immediately shot up and she answered enthusiastically "Prayer is pleasing to God" (her answer kind of surprised me because while prayer is something that we do, it's not something I remember us really going into all the much in our religion course, or in our conversations).  Her answer obviously wasn't what they were looking for, and the conversation continued innocently.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  Prayer is worship.  Prayer can express repentance.

Then the conversation turned.  What are the wrong ways to pray?  It's wrong to pray to statues.  It's wrong to pray to "dead people."  And then (to roughly quote from memory): "And do you know how we know that it's wrong to pray to dead people?  Because they can't hear you.  And do you know how we know they can't hear you?  Because they're in heaven and in heaven everyone was happy and if they could hear our prayers here they'd be in tears."

Mangling and misunderstanding intercessory prayer at it's best.

I felt the color drain from my face as my eyes searched for Sadie at the front of the room... Sadie who will tell anyone who will listen that her favorite subject is religion.  Sadie who's ability to memorize just about anything she hears means that it's not unusual for her to quote from the catechism sections that are in her religion workbook.  A part of me was silently willing her not to be listening, while at the same time thinking of the explanation I was going to have to give in the car on the way home about misconceptions about Catholicism and how some people think we pray to statues (we don't) and I was also thinking about cracking open the can of worms about exactly what intercessory prayer is and how we're asking the saints to pray to God for our intentions.

But she was quiet in her seat across the giant room and I started to relax.  "Let's pray before we have our snack" told me that the subject had passed and I began to think about how the meetings might turn into a great opportunity to talk about what we do believe.

Then I heard her little voice ringing from the front of the room.  She wasn't talking loudly, but the acoustics were very good and her small prayer carried all the way to where I was sitting in the back as she prayed: "Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee."  The troop leader began to pray over her.  I winced, because let's face it, I'm pretty shy in real life and this is exactly the kind of attention I would generally avoid.  "Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen."

So... that happened.  

The thing is, if you know Sadie, you know that she's pretty innocent.  Watching her it seemed (and knowing her) it really seemed to be a spontaneous prayer that just bubbled out at the words "let's pray" rather than a response to what had been being discussed.

Afterwards I talked to her about what they'd talked about and she really didn't seem to make a connection between the idea of asking for the intercession of the saints and the "praying to dead people" that was derided at the meeting.

So, we're planning on sticking with this new activity (and in even more exciting news, her new ballet class starts this week too!), although I'm hoping it's not quite as wonderful an opportunity for discussion on what we actually believe on the way home, every single week.  I'm hoping next week is a little bit more "Jesus loves you" and a little bit less what-everybody-else-is-doing-wrong.


  1. Way to go, Sadie!!!

    Perhaps I am just contentious, but that leader would be hearing from me about her ignorance of Catholicism and very clear anti-Catholic statement.


  2. Might it be an American Heritage Girls Troop? We have two up here, but they were started at Catholic Churches and are mostly filled with Catholic girls right now. My husband and son are also in Trail Life, also currently headed up by and mostly filled with Catholic males. These groups have done wonderful things up here this far. And if Sadie has the heart for evangelization at her tender age (I think my five year old would be more prone to intense curiosity about how/where/when/why/who anybody does anything DIFFERENTLY - and instantly drawn to it for that very reason), then God bless and guide her! TB

  3. She is so sweet! I hope the next meeting is better.

    We seriously looked into Catholicism a few years ago (my dad is a cradle catholic that now goes on holidays & he didn't raise me in the faith or any faith for that matter.) and for different reasons that aren't important here we didn't. But I will always be grateful for the Church and her open arms to me at a time in my life where I really needed a refuge. The strongest lesson it taught me is how little people know. They get their "facts" from books written by other people who have never actually spoken to a Catholic. The whole situation breaks my heart.

  4. I think you should approach the leaders and say exactly that. Yes, the church that sponsors the charter is their spiritual guide, but really that's supposed to be exactly what you said, what they do believe, not what they believe everyone else is doing wrong.

  5. Wow, this surprised me. And as much as you might want Sadie to have the experience of belonging to this group and the great things that can happen for her (I was a Brownie and Girl Scout in my day and I LOVED it), I would be mightily concerned given the "shot over the bow" at the first meeting. I mean, it's not a religion class, yet the leader felt it necessary to counter Catholic belief in intercessory prayer? I can't imagine! That in itself would make think twice about letting her belong to this particular troop with this particular leader. If this leader BEGAN with a veiled attack on Catholicism such as she did, I would expect there will be continuing subtle comments and theologies as time goes on, especially if the leader figures out Sadie is Catholic. It could even degrade over time to the point that the other little girls will feel comfortable telling Sadie things you never dreamed of, given they will have a tacit approval of the leader, perhaps something as horrific as the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, or Catholics are cannibals, or Catholics are not really Christians. Seriously! As adults we have the mental defenses not to be as affected by these sorts of comments, but little kids really don't. And what of little girls of other faiths that might be in attendance? What might this leader say about their faiths?
    I really don't mean to be negative here. I think these organizations are so great for girls, but opting for an alternative to Brownies obviously doesn't mean the alternative is a good choice either. I don't know if you expect to attend every meeting, but I would worry about poor Sadie being exposed to such contradictions at her young age, ones you never hear so you can't counter. She has such a beautiful, remarkable faith now, and one day she will have to defend it mightily, but it would be sad if it is crushed in its tenderness because she is exposed to theologies beyond her ability to comprehend or defend. Satan is indeed roaming the world seeking the ruin of souls.
    Is there another "troop" around? One nearer to your hoped for new home?
    God Bless. ~ Bonnie

  6. See, crap like this is why I dread homeschooling, and why I'm honestly not planning on utilizing homeschool groups or more conservative kids' activities. Admittedly, I'm bitter after growing up surrounded by radical traditionalism on the one hand and extreme fundamentalist Protestantism on the other.

    This reminds me of one homeschool group--primarily run by Baptists and fundamentalists, but at which Catholics were (supposedly) welcome--which I attended for a year. That year's Christmas drama was about the carol "The First Noel." You'd think it was about a nice hymn and shepherds on the hills and angels and so on, right?


    It had two primary characters, a grandmother and granddaughter, as well as flashbacks to the first Christmas. In it, the grandmother heard her granddaughter singing "The First Noel," and used it as a teaching moment to explain how "The First Noel" was an example of how the evil priests locked up Bibles to keep them away from people. You see, according to the grandmother, the carol was written at a time when the people only heard the parts of the Bible the priests let them hear, so the hymn wasn't biblical because of the phrase "on a cold winter's night/that was so deep"--after all, the Bible never said that the first Christmas was in winter, or that it snowed, so that hymn probably shouldn't be sung.

    You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

    All irritation on my part aside, I really do hope that the group works out well for Sadie, as I'm sure it could be a lot of fun for her!

  7. That was not veiled anti-Catholicism, that was out and out bigotry and yes, there will be more of it. Coming out of that tradition, there will be a constant effort to undermine the Catholicism you are teaching your daughter. We used to have entire meetings where the entire topic was how to convince a Catholic to reject some key teaching of Catholicism so they could be steered out of the Catholic Church. We never told the Catholics who came to other meetings about these discussions, we just very carefully kept watch for opportunities to plant doubts while being "supportive" of their faith in God. I look back with relief that I was never bold enough to do that sort of evangelization! But I never thought it completely wrong either. The well Catechized are not immune if they stick with such a group long enough. The gradual formation in protestant theology will eventually get them-- which is why they can be "open" and "inclusive" of your Faith. Just know, they will never ever let you see the underbelly during face to face discussions.

    book suggestion: Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism.

    If they succeed in damaging your daughter's faith, perhaps even causing her to veer off her vocation (whatever that is meant to be) because of some doubt they planted when she was too young to defend herself, there will also be the guilt on their souls for harming her faith. So if this does not prove to be a clear aberration you may need to remove her for the sake of preventing their souls from collecting sin they won't even know to confess.

    Having read everything against the Church when I was a fundamentalist, I knew when I had to know why my friend converted that I had to read books by Catholics for Catholics because I already knew it from the protestant side. What I didn't know and learned from Mr Keating's book was the source of what I had been taught about Catholicism.

    I urge you to consider seeking to start a group at a Catholic Church. There is no way to guard a child from learning heresy from a loving and respected leader who is determined to only show love and sow false teaching by way of it. They may really believe they do right-- a woman I know "helped" her best friend's son right out of the Catholic Church, even though his leaving the Church broke his mother's heart, and the woman rejoiced because in her mind he is now saved.

    This sort of "teaching" comes together, so they were open about what you heard, then they will be doing the rest. I never, in all my years in that fold, ever found where anyone held part without holding the whole. And I belonged to more than one such church in more than one area during those years.

    I'm so glad God drop kicked me into the Catholic Church. I am also horrified at how naive most Catholics are about how deep the bigotry is within some groups. So deep those who are bigots have no idea that is what they are.

  8. Our Catholic school has The Little Flowers based on St Therese. It is like Girl Scouts but faith based with Catholic themes Maybe you can look if they meet in your area. I would say something about the inappropriate ness of the meeting. You are so faithful she will be fine. But what about other little girls whose parents aren't as devout.

  9. Goodness, it sounds like that troop leader got her knowledge about Catholicism from a Jack Chick tract!

  10. I just love the Sadie stories. :) Good for her! That child is so precious.

  11. You sure do meet the weirdest, rudest people! My kids all went to a Lutheran preschool and never ever met with any anti-Catholic content. I have never even met an anti-Catholic. Of course, here in southern CA, we have a large Catholic population so it's very normalized

  12. I hope that's a one-time mistake in that group, but if it continues another option for Sadie could be 4H. I used to think it was just about animals but I've since found out that it can include baking, art, scrapbooking, speech and much more. Everyone I've known who participated as kids had only great things to say about it.

  13. Goodness! I do hope you have better luck with this group (or, if you and your daughter choose another path, then I wish you both the best of luck there, too). It's a shame that bridging and focusing on common goals isn't empathized enough in the wider culture.


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