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Discovering The Lie That Branded Me A Liar
Let me start by saying, “Thank you” for reading this. For in doing so, you have not only become a witness to this type of abuse that continues to go on at a global scale, but you will also receive blessings for putting positive energy into a negative energy stream. Don’t believe me? Prove it to yourself by looking for the blessing after you have read my story in its entirety. I have prayed that other children might be spared if I share my story and although there are many stories in my own life surrounding the catholic church, this story is truly a crime. I’m sure other religions have similar abusive tendencies, as well, but if we as a people can identify these types of over-looked wrong doings, especially done to innocent children, the trend just might change for the better.
During the past 41 years I have struggled to heal from a devastating and crippling form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While I share some parts of my healing journey on my website www.carolannevans.com, several childhood memories have surfaced over the last 5 years and I believe these past times in my life have had a negative influence that shaped the beginning point to influence the opportunity for MS to invade my body.
I have not spoken to most of my family members since 1991. Back then, (I was 30yrs old) I chose to confront those relative members who were abusive to me, not only physically and verbally, but also slanderous and underhanded. Even though I was blackmailed by my counselor (another story for later) into writing a derogatory letter to all of my family members, my relatives never responded back to me nor did they apologize for their inappropriate behavior. Since the letter scenario, I have been struggling to stay alive and at the same time dissect my past to find out the initial antagonizing event(s) that started the process that lead to the diagnosis of this terrible disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Many healer visits, treatments, surgeries, procedures and decades of suffering later, I have uncovered some of those childhood memories and choose to share one of them here on my website in hopes that it will help me heal and break the silence that so often accompanies this type of abuse. This story, in the sea of many similar stories in my life, I believe sparked an energetic pattern that with years of silent suffering, negatively impacted me on a physical level.
I grew up in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. My father was an engineer and my mother, a homemaker, although that is not the label society gives “stay-at-home-moms or dads” today. We, my sisters (one older and one younger than myself), grew up in a strict Roman Catholic household. It was never really a “home” but basically a brick building resembling one.
My father brought the catholic religion to our family (actually to his and my mother’s marriage, first), and, of course, his daughters followed and obeyed all the idiosyncrasies the catholic church mandated. This story is about my First Holy Communion, an important and sacred ceremony honored by the catholic church, and the events surrounding that ceremony that I believe started a huge landslide of miscommunication, unnecessary abuse and unfortunate wrongful accusations in my life.
Catholic children around seven years old, (most other religions consider the age of 8 to be the age of reason, where a child can make a moral choice independent of parental guidance) prepare for and receive First Holy Communion. Although this time in my life was an extremely confusing and horrifying time, I had already been introduced to corporal punishment, incest and isolation, I have come to the conclusion that the events surrounding my First Communion are responsible for some of my most foundational moral belief standards, because I can now see where the offenses started and who committed them. This is the basic story, there are many “side stories” not yet addressed here.
The nuns served as catechrists (teachers) at our parish, St. Sebastian Church, in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. In addition to teaching at St Sebastian parochial school, “a private primary or secondary school affiliated with a religious organization, and whose curriculum includes general religious education in addition to secular subjects, such as science, mathematics and language arts,” they headed up the task of preparing students and their families for this communion event. (Wikipedia, 2020)
The US Catholic Conference explains, “[Catholic] children and young people - under the direction of a catechist, teacher or parent - ordinarily use texts that are developed from a variety of sources, some of which are similar to the new Catechism, such as the National Directory for Catechesis. The Catechism serves as a point of reference for the development of such catechetical texts which in turn are directly used by children and young people with the assistance of catechists, teachers and parents. The Catechism serves several important functions: It conveys the essential and fundamental content of the Catholic faith and morals in a complete and summary way, it is a positive, objective and declarative exposition of Catholic doctrine and it is intended to assist those who have the duty to catechize, namely promoters and teachers of catechesis.” (US Catholic Conference, 1994)
I did not attend St Sebastian parochial school, but I did attended their Catechism classes. According to the US Catholic Conference, “The Catechism is a text which contains the fundamental Christian truths formulated in a way that facilitates [the fundamental truth’s] understanding. (Is there a redundancy here?). It presents what Catholics throughout the world believe in common. It presents these truths in a way that facilitates their understanding. (US Catholic Conference, 1994)
Fellow classmates called these catechism classes, “CCD classes” but either way I attended them on every Monday evening until 9th grade. Every Monday after a full day of public school, exhausted, I walked the 10 city blocks to our church’s school and sat in one of their classrooms to attempt to understand the practices and beliefs of the Catholic religion. Of course, the things I learned (what the church was really teaching) could fill a book and therefore will not be addressed here. But First Holy Communion was the subject of all the hype in my family and for weeks before the event which was to occur in April, on a Sunday in 1968, I went through all the preparation activities. It was quite common for the families in my neighborhood to throw a huge party after Communion Mass to continue the celebration well into the evening.
The First Communion, or First Holy Communion, is a Catholic Church ceremony. It is the colloquial name for a person's first reception of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Catholics believe this event to be very important, as the Eucharist is one of the central focuses of the Catholic Church. Lutherans traditionally practice First Communion. First Communion is not celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches or the Assyrian Church of the East which practice infant communion. Some Anglicans allow infant communion… … Roman Catholics and some Protestant denominations, including Lutherans and some Anglicans, believe Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, although, for non-Catholics, not as transubstantiation. Other denominations have varying understandings, ranging from the Eucharist being a "symbolic" meal to a meal of "remembering" Christ's last supper. First Communion in Roman Catholic churches typically takes place at age seven or eight, depending on the country.” (First Communion, 2020)
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Planning for my First Holy Communion, was apparently comparative to planning a catholic wedding. Although, girls wore a short “bride dress” complete with veil, gloves, a clutch purse, shoes and lace socks. I knew it wasn’t a real wedding. Who would I marry at 7 yrs old anyway? the church? I did learn shortly after my communion that catholic nuns actually did dress in a wedding gown and marry their alliegence to the church. They even wore a gold wedding rings on their left ring finger.
“A communal First Communion service will be anticipated as a day of joy by the whole congregation,” states
Dawn Denmar in her article, What Happens during a First Communion.“ The parishioners will be familiar with the children celebrating their first communion and will do their best to make this a day to remember. Generally, the service will be part of the normal Sunday Mass, but could include a procession of the first communicants, or a gathering of the communicants prior to their participation in the Eucharist. Very often, the children participate in the Mass by carrying out all of the readings, prayers and bidding prayers. The first communicants usually take the Eucharist (eat the circle wafer) before the other parishioners.” (Denmar, 2017)
And my First Holy Communion would also be communal, including every boy and girl who were 7 years old from the church school, as well as, CCD classes.
My mother, made most of the preparations for the event. She called to confirm furniture deliveries (table and chairs for dinner), caterers which consisted mostly of my relatives who each offered their specialized different cuisines, a cake decorator because I guess there had to be cake and cleaning detail (me and my older sister) for the basement even though it rarely got dirty because my mother was a meticulous, sterile housekeeper.
“Families of the first holy communicants celebrate the day as an important milestone in their child's life. They are encouraged to invite other family members to celebrate the occasion and may be allocated a family pew for the event. It is quite common for the family to throw a huge party after the Mass to continue the celebrations. Very often, family and friends will give small religious gifts to the children, such as rosaries or Bibles.” (Denmar, 2017) But in my case, my family always gave money, lots and lots of money. I grew to learn that at every catholic event there was a large amount of money transferred. (At least it appeared to be a large amount of money. I was seven and clueless about this stuff.)
My preparation duties consisted of attending numerous practice sessions at the church, trying on my dress, opening and closing my clutch purse several times because I liked how it looked and no body scolded me for doing it. My little purse was about 7 inches wide 5 inches tall and 2 inches thick. The outside flap had detailed white flowers complete with stems and leaves. There were strategically placed pearls glued onto the flower petals and on the front of the purse flap around the flowers. There was a thick plastic cover over this flower arrangement. You couldn’t touch the flowers and the pearls but that didn’t stop me from trying to feel through the protective plastic to get closer to those silky looking flowers and pearls. What I did get to touch as often as I wanted was the inserted book with a snapped covered pouch attached to the back cover which held a pink faceted bead rosary with an attached silver colored small crucifix. My older sister had a separate, unattached book and rosary. I really liked her book more, it had pearl inlays in the front and back covers and her rosary pouch was satin and pearls with a zipper closure. I would become painfully aware of the preferential treatment my older sister received as I grew up in our family, from clothes, to private rooms, cars and curfews. (But that's another story, too.)
But for now, my book was my focus and would have to suffice. It was not a bible, by the way, I remember wondering why it wasn’t a bible. My book was a cardboard covered paperback that had a while plastic slip cover. It was easy to slide the cardboard book covers out to remove the cheap plastic overcover, but I didn’t. I pretended that my book was sealed in the plastic, like my older sisters, which made it seem worthy. To tell the truth, I didn’t know what that book was about. I remember reading some of its pages which mentioned Jesus, Mary and Joseph but it was definitely not set up like any bible I had ever seen. In fact, the day of my First Holy Communion, an usher in the church’s lobby demanded to see my book, opened it and fanned through the pages as if he were waiting for something to drop out, closed the book, snapped its diary-like closure and gave it back to me. Later, I found out that one of the other communion students had a genuine bible in their possession and it was promptly taken from them and thrown away. Also, that student received a stern warning to never bring a bible to church again and was encouraged not to ever read the bible, either. Funny how memories like that pop up when you revisit a time from your past. And those of you who disbelieve my accounts, ask yourself “Why would a seven year old make something like this up?” What would be my motivation? I am presently in my late 50’s and disabled in a wheelchair. If I had ulterior motives, wouldn’t you have heard about it years ago?
Back to the preparation for the big day. Dawn Denmar states in her article, What Happens during a First Communion, “Many Catholic churches will offer an annual, communal first Holy Communion service to all qualifying parish children. The church may offer regular catechesis prior to the service, in order that the children are well-prepared for the event and ready to partake in the ceremony. The Catholic Church believes that any baptized person must be allowed to partake of Holy Communion. The Vatican has also ruled that prior to celebration of first Holy Communion, all children should have participated in confession.
Confession. I believe this one "pre-first holy communion confession" was the start of my problems. Until now, I explained the happenings and preparations for this event to let you absorb the hype, confusion, excitement and any other emotion that probably allowed me to overlook this one event that was so critical to my opinion of self and moral attitude to my family and others.
Everyone that has ever been inside a Catholic church has seen the confessionals along one wall. They look like decorated closets and are very dark, small and scary inside. Just like on TV, a priest opens the sliding, dark, board "window" to allow light to shine through itty bitty holes in the opaque plastic partition you speak to, you can not see who sits on the other side but you definitely recognize the voice. Usually the voice matches the priest(s) who preaches the sermons at Sunday Mass.
We had two priests at that time, one American and one foreign. Both spoke english but you could tell which one was speaking, either broken english or easily understood english. “Bless me Father, I have sinned.” This took me a while to memorize so I was proud I said it correctly. “It has been….no, this is my first confession.” Okay, messed up a little. I waited.
The voice spoke in broken english, “what are your sins?”
I thought and thought, “I did everything my parents asked of me,” I said
“Certainly you are not implying you are more perfect than me?” the voice warned. “If you can’t remember your mistakes, make some up, I need a sin to give you penance.”
“You heard me!” the voice increased in volume and with a scolding tone. “Make up a sin!”
I became wilted, scared and I felt alone.
Okay, “I lied to my parent? Is that a good sin?"
“See, that wasn’t so bad, now go, say 3 Hail Mary’s and sin no more.” (But I didn't sin!) I got up and made my way to the front of the church where every other confessional sinner was kneeling and praying their penance.
Confusion, anger, disbelief, shame, fear and doom consumed me immediately, then over the months and gfinally the years but this horrible happening decreased in urgency and somehow began to fade away along with any emotional attachment. When I walked home with my older sister that day, I thought for sure she would say what sin she “made up” but she didn’t. When I attempted to ask/tell her about what happened to me, she scolded me for breaking the rule of "not discussing your confessional happenings" and dismissed me with a worthless “less than her” attitude which may have been her way of dealing with her own "confessional lie" (and which continued to the day I sent the letters in 1991).
Even though the excitement of First Holy Communion helped gloss over the devastation I felt from all of the feelings related to the confessional lies and maybe even the verbal abuse from the priest?, the crux of the event simmered in me and around me for decades. Is it any wonder why I got so sick? Healers say that illness starts deep within you or even in your aura outside your body. Add to that, the fact that I witnessed another girl being abused by a priest the very day of our communion, she ended up sitting next to me in the pew. Half way through the ceremony, she threw up and had to leave, but I often wondered if her sudden illness was from what the priest did to her. Also, because life has a way of traveling on so quickly, there was never any time to stop and “take care of” this confessional lie but that did not stop the harsh punishments I received from my parents and sisters because of it.
Some people would think that I should have made time or that I somehow chose not to stop and consider this event and its consequences, but in reality life whisks you away to the next thing in your life, school, sports, graduation, college, marriage, divorce, children and so on. If you think not look at the events in your own life and “how fast your kids grow up” or “how it was just yesterday your daughter or son started kindergarten and now they are graduating high school”. So why couldn't a devastating event be whisked away and mostly forgotten over time? It could and when your seven year old body doesn't know who to tell or how to proceed to a solution, forgetting the problem seems to be a viable option.
Week after week, the fake confessions continued. Eventually, the fake statement, “I lied to my parents” started to become second nature, like a knee jerk response to “what are your sins?”, even though I hadn’t lied to my parents until much later when I was older and they (my father) had been frequently beating me for what my sisters (both of them) wrongfully accused me of or what my parents thought I did, but really didn’t. So my dad did the beatings and most of the other unspeakable acts performed on me, and my mother had bad arthritis by then, so she was dealing with her own issues (and has no time to get involved with my life).
So the game of “made up”confession continued well after my first communion and confirmation (9th grade). If the “lie” game had been just that, a “game” between just me and the priest, I don’t think much would have come out of it, it would have died after 9th grade, eight years after it began. Problem was that as I grew older, my dad bribed his tithe money so the priests so the priests would tell my dad what I confessed. I caught them talking once or twice but I thought surely the priest wouldn’t break his confessional vows. I was wrong.
So after forty-one years of rehashing and “allowing” painful memories to surface, many memories much more “painful” than this one, I realized that the catholic church molded me into a potential habitual liar. Even though I never lied to my parents until much later in my late teens because my dad was trying to encourage sexual acts with me and I refused his advances and I refused to tell my mother (which I found out is a common act for incest survivors). Somehow, I held my own high morals close at hand and never gave the pathetic practice of confession much clout, at least the way the process of confession was presented to me. I think I needed to write this well over-looked event in my life purely to “break the silence” surrounding this event and to help me cope with the insurmountable number of the lies and stories that come from my own lineage. I need to direct the events of my life back to their origins so I may disconnect and hopefully heal. This event definitely goes back to the catholic church and the priest who heard my first confession. Cutting the ties to the catholic religion and the events surrounding my First Holy Communion (there are more secret things that I did not include here) has helped me place the offending events back where they belong. I am allowing myself to count this paper as me letting the world know that all the negative events (even the ones I did not include) with regard to My First Holy Communion are here-by diffuse the negative energy it has carried and I am breaking the silence and the “secrecy” is now out publicly.
Basically, I never had a chance to become part of a loving, caring family and have a relationship with my parents and sisters. My father had his strict Italian, Roman Catholic upbringing. My mother had her own demons but suffice it to say she was surrounded by fear of everything and everyone from common household dust to being abandoned by my father, which was frequently threatened by him toward “us kids” as well.
Once my father found out my “fake confession” he punished me harshly for the tiniest of offenses until I confronted him when I was 17 yrs old, at which time I left the house and entered college. I was so naive and my older sister (who figured things out to secure her own survival) never shared with me so that I might avoid some of the harsh treatments (most unjustly), but that’s another book.
Thank you again, for being a witness to a portion of my life that has shrouded me for over 50years. May God bless you and keep you safe.
Denmar, Dawn.. Dec 29, 2017. “What Happens During a First Communion”, Classroom Leaf Group. retrieved from: https://classroom.synonym.com/what-happens-during-a-first-communion-12085428.html
"FIRST COMMUNION." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 14 Apr. 2020.
United States Catholic Conference, Inc. 1994. What is a catechism? Retrieved from: https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-catechism-of-the-catholic-church.cfm
Wikipedia. 2020, March 23., Parochial School. Retrieved from:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parochial_school