In Chicago 1952 on Francisco Avenue in St. Timothy’s Parish, Protestant religions of all kinds were suspect and spoken of with squinty-eyed relish. Exposure to Protestant beliefs could be a slippery slope to spiritual ruin.
After Mass one Sunday in the fall of that year a young girl was invited by her friends Mary and Martha to the children’s program practice at the First United Methodist Church close by. Though she could have been excommunicated, she risked it. The pew itself, as well as the kneeler were padded. During the program she surreptitiously chewed gum and swung her legs in time with the music. Afterward the child longed to be a United Methodist.
At home there was a split decision about the Protestants versus the Catholics. In soft Gaelic-laced tones the young girl’s paternal Grandma Nana, praised the infallibility of both the Pope and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Her maternal Grandmother, a Lutheran, cautioned people that consorting with Roman Catholics was a dangerous undertaking. Gran was mainly a practical person who loved things clean and in their place. Whereas, Nana loved things in threes: the Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, a Straight Flush, a Royal Flush, and a Full House as well as a Triple Play in Thillens Stadium at the corner of Devon and Kedzie.
Among all the Saints and the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost owned the child’s imagination; it could fly and it could disguise itself as an ordinary bird and show up almost anywhere. Known as “The Paraclete”, the dove, the helper, or the intercessor, it hovered above her throughout most of second grade. Thinking of the word “parakeet” helped her remember the proper name, “Paraclete”.
That year she relied on the Paraclete, and she hoped, despite the slippery slope, that the United Methodists knew about the Paraclete too.
Jean Cassidy 2014
Photo Credit: Vernon Greeson