When I was a child we always went to church but only once a year as a family.
My father would rise every Sunday and attend the 6:30 Mass, then come home and read his Sunday paper, every word of it, section by section, saving the obituaries for last.
My mother would stuff my sister and me into our Sunday best and send us off to the Children’s Mass at 10. It was a short walk to the church and times were different back then. We were children but safe in our little neighborhood of brick bungalows where neighbors kept an eye out for strangers or anyone or anything that looked odd. The south side of Chicago in the Forties and Fifties was blue collar, little villages teeming with immigrants and very peaceful, except for the occasional fight that might break out in a neighborhood bar.
After sending my sister and me off to church, my mother would put the roast in the oven, ask my father to keep an eye on it, and she would go to the 11:15.
This was our family pattern, even on Christmas and Easter. I recall not one variation.
But there was that one day a year when the four of us as a family went off to church together. And that was on Good Friday when we walked to the church, my sister and I in front, my father and mother right behind us, to attend the Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. Not a word was said as we walked those few blocks. But I was impressed by this family event because if it was important enough to get us to go to church together, I figured Good Friday must be a pretty important day.
The only other time we went anywhere as a family was an Irish wake. Chicago back then was not only home to the Stockyards filled with cattle, swine and sheep. It was also home to large groups of immigrants. And my father would always want the family to dress up and go to an Irish wake, hoping, as he so often said, to meet “someone from home.”