Growing up my family wasn’t particularly religious. We called ourselves Protestant and never went to church except for Easter and Christmas. And sometimes not even then. But my best friend’s (Meghan’s) family was Catholic. And they went to church all the time. I didn’t like it very much because they always went to 4:00 o’clock Mass on Saturdays (right in the middle of playtime, of course). When her parents invited me, I went with them, not because I had any interest in church, but because it seemed better than being apart. I got nervous when it was time for communion. I never knew what you were supposed to say when they gave you the little round wafers and I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to chew them or not and I was sure if I did the wrong thing it was probably a sin. And then everyone got back in the pews and knelt down and everybody seemed to know what was supposed to happen then except me. So I just made stuff up and hoped I wouldn’t get in trouble with God.
During the sermons, Meghan and I got in trouble for talking and giggling a lot, but I think in the end, her parents thought it was probably worth the trouble of taking me with them as long as I had some exposure to church!
One day during an ice skating lesson I accidentally let a swear-word slip. I had never said a bad word in my life, mind you. When we got home, Meghan asked me what was wrong. I told her I was really scared because I was going to Hell. “What? What are you going to Hell for?” she asked. So I told her what happened. Being a good Catholic, she knew the rules much better than I did and she told me that “You don’t go to Hell for saying a swear-word; everybody knows that. If you ask for forgiveness, God forgives you and you go to Heaven.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief! Then she added, “The only thing you go to hell for is not going to church.”
And the funny thing was, the thing that scared me in that moment wasn’t the idea of going to Hell; it was the idea that when we died, I’d be going to Hell and she’d be going to Heaven and we wouldn’t be together…and that was the worse kind of punishment I could think of. To this day I cannot imagine my life without her.