Family Histories (66)

Sunday, 13 October 2013 01:50

Matias Rivera

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Friday, 11 October 2013 18:59

First Holy Communion At Cristo Rey

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My parents were married in Los Angeles in 1944.  Dad was in the Navy and met my mom through her cousin.  She was a Basque Catholic and he was a Santa Fe Episcopalian, which didn’t seem to present any problems until, in 1946, we all returned to Santa Fe to live permanently.  When my mom brought me to meet dad’s family, my great-grandmother informed her that all of the arrangements had been made to have me baptized at Holy Faith on Palace Avenue.  As an Episcopalian.

It must not have gotten cold enough for hell to freeze over that year, because I was baptized a Catholic.  After living in Los Alamos until 1948, we moved back to Santa Fe and I began my spiritual education at Cristo Rey Church.  The earliest memories of Cristo Rey I have were going to Mass every Sunday and learning the ritual of standing, kneeling, genuflecting and sitting at the proper times.  When I began school I also began catechism class for an hour every Saturday afternoon.   The class was held in a schoolroom that was part of the Cristo Rey Parish School, located behind the church.  We were first taught the basics:  the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostle’s Creed and the Sign of the Cross (which, we were told, the Episcopalians did backwards.)  As I grew older, heading for my First Holy Communion, the lessons focused on the life of Jesus, the stories in the bible and the 7 Sacraments.  We were each given a scapular which consisted of two small squares of cloth, each with its own picture of Jesus on one and Mary on the other, connected by two long strips of cloth.  They were worn under your clothing, with one picture against your chest and one against your back.  We were expected to wear them all the time.  I remember how mine itched.  I think  that it was supposed to, kind of like a hair shirt.

Monsignor Patrick Smith (Father Pat) was our parish priest and he had a unique way of making sure that we were absorbing our lessons.  Cristo Rey had 3 Masses on Sunday.  The 7:00 Mass, for those who wanted an early start, the 9:30 Mass which most parishioners and families attended, and the noon Mass for those who couldn’t attend the other two and for the sluggards who slept in.  At the 9:30 Mass, all of the kids in catechism class sat in the first 3 pews up front.  There was no escape.  After the sermon, Father Pat came down from the altar to the aisle and began randomly questioning us on what we should have learned the day before.  We were expected to answer in a loud, clear voice and Heaven help us if we whispered or didn’t know the answer.  Remember, we were all just kids and not accustomed to public speaking.  We initially tried to make sure that we sat as far from the aisle as possible, which led to a lot of jostling as we arrived, but we soon learned that Father Pat would question those kids first.  The girls almost always answered correctly.  The boys, not so much.  If we faltered, Father Pat would announce to the world that we must not be paying enough attention and we would be singled out during the next class.  The adults behind us were quite amused by the entire spectacle and, believe it or not, by the time we made our First Communion, we knew the material pretty well.

The Saturday before First Communion, we all had to make our first confession.  One of the Sacraments is Penance, which is an acknowledgement of and atonement for one's sins.  The confessional was a small wooden chamber with the priest separated from the confessor by an opaque curtain.  You entered, knelt down and said “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been (X) days/weeks/months since my last confession.”  You enumerated your sins and the priest then assigned your penance, which had to be completed, kneeling in a pew, before you could leave the church.  Penance for a 7 year old was pretty simple.  It usually was saying 5 Our Fathers and 5 Hail Marys or, if the sin was really egregious, praying a Rosary, which took about an hour.  My sins then consisted of things like fighting with my brother, disobeying my parents and once swiping a popsicle from the Palace Grocery (that one got me a Rosary.)  Impure thoughts and deeds came later.

The next day, we made our First Holy Communion.  Everyone was scrubbed clean and dressed to the nines.  The girls all had white dresses and mantillas and the boys all had on white shirts and grown-up ties.  Our scapulars were in place and we took our seats in the front pews, this time as the guests of honor rather than the uneducated urchins we had been before.  When the time came, we were first at the altar rail and we knelt (again).  I put out my tongue and received the Host, a thin, white wafer which immediately stuck to the roof of my mouth.  Picture a dog trying to get peanut butter off the roof of its mouth.  That was me.

When Mass was over, we all gathered outside for congratulations and photos.  There were parties and, in my case, breakfast at a sit-down restaurant.  It was the biggest day thus far of our young lives and I recall the pride I felt because I had finished a complicated task successfully.

Looking back, I realize that the first foundations of who I became as an adult were laid at Cristo Rey.  And I am most grateful.

--Mike Lord

Photo by Jerry Kerr

Thursday, 26 September 2013 15:19

Doris Lillian Gardiner Seligman

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Read the story of my maternal side. My mother immigrated from Wales and lived in Santa Fe from 1921 until her death in 1990. Click on the green link below to open or download the article.

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