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Editor’s Note: When Catholicism was fabric of our lives

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Steve TrosleyIf anyone doubted that Major League Baseball plays a vital role in the life of this city, the hosting of the 2015 All-Star Game July 14 should have cleared the matter up.

The celebrations, the recognition of local heroes and the crowds drawn downtown to fight weather, traffic, media tweeters and each other for a chance to be a part of the Mid-Summer Classic more than confirms that baseball is a huge part of the fabric of this community.

So it was once with Catholicism and Catholics. A fellow writer once said when someone pines about how good things were in the good old days, think about dentistry. But do consider:

When Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr cited the Food for All Campaign as an opportunity for our archdiocese to give a spiritual bouquet to Pope Francis when he visits the United States in September, this ancient one recalled giving my parents spiritual bouquets for their wedding anniversaries. We would take one of Mom’s old jelly jar glasses, spray paint it gold and fill it with cardboard “hosts,” each inscribed with a prayer we would say or an act we would do on our parent’s behalf.

One brother kept a list of these and crossed them off as we reported having fulfilled the promise. Yes, he is the one who became a priest.

As seventh grade male anchors for a choir assembled by a young Ursuline, Mother Dennis, our gang practiced harmonies for the Salve Regina after a morning of sandlot baseball, Kool-Aid drinking and trading card swaps. We wanted to make sure we sounded good for the May Crowning, which would play to a full house on a weekday evening at our parish church, St. Bernard’s.

One of us would have been servers for the 6:45 a.m. Mass that same morning. Our pastor had a Mass at that time for all of the McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft workers who battled their way over to St. Louis each morning. He had a short Communion service for those who had to be on the road by 7 a.m. and then said Mass.

We saved our dimes for First Fridays. In those pre-Vatican II days of a post-midnight eucharistic fast we were allowed to buy pastries brought to the school on aircraft carrier-sized trays from Mrs. Seibold’s Bakery, after meeting our First Friday obligation. The pastries cost a dime each and we were growing, competitive boys. You had to eat at least six or be considered a dud.

It was not uncommon to see a huddle of 10-12 year-olds gathered on the boys’ playground around someone older like Jimmy Stassi or Jimmy Dvorchak, getting tips on serving Mass – like how the communion paten was held for Father Reebert, who was tall, or for Father Kekaisen, who was impatient, or Father Douglas the pastor, who was older than Methuselah.

There were family prayer nights, deeply appreciated and treasured Catholic religious gifts for birthdays and holidays and evenings when we were restricted to our second floor rooms because our parents were hosting a Confraternity meeting – and we got the leftover treats and could stay up late to hear about what had been discussed.

In ways large and small, Catholicism was woven into each day’s experience, from recitation of the morning offering to “now I lay me down to sleep…” and all was measured with a Catholic yardstick. Dentistry may have changed for the better, but other things have not.

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Returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I shared with you the story of a young medical student from Ghana, repeating what our guide there, Father Ben Owusu told me. Chris Stier of Springboro has been working with Father Owusu to launch a “crowdfunding” campaign for Rebecca, the future physician. If you’d like to participate, please go to http://flowerfund.com/beckysdream/.

Steve Trosley is the editor and general manager of The Catholic Telegraph.

This Editor’s Note by Steve Trosley originally appeared in the August 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph

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