When did Sunday School get moved off Sundays? My two older kids go to CCD, which is offered on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and evenings. I kind of liked all things Lordy being organized around the Lord’s Day (not that every day isn’t the Lord’s Day, but you know what I am saying) because our weekdays are pretty crammed, but that’s how it is so we deal with it.
Imagine my surprise this past Monday when I arrived to pick up my children and their carpoolmates and the kindergartners were toting fish! Live ones, in peanut butter jars full of water and gravel and tied with ribbon emblazoned with crosses. Pets!
My older son hopped into the minivan, was introduced to Stink (before he was renamed Jake, then Rex) and said, “this is crazy! I don’t know HOW this involves the Holy Spirit!” Which to be honest was sort of what I was thinking, too, at that particular moment.
I was raised Catholic by a generally nonobservant Presbyterian mother and an observant Catholic father. My dad was a guy of deep personal faith who went to Mass weekly without fail. However, I can’t say faith, or the Bible, or any aspect of the whole thing was stuff we talked about a whole lot. My dad was a person who deeply believed that living well – living the values of kindness, generosity, integrity, and respect – and taking joy in life itself and the beauty of our world was the finest way to honor God. Living it rather than talking it, you might say.
A few months before he died my dad and I were walking the dog and talking about our shared disagreements with the church itself and how hard it often makes it to be Catholic. My father’s point of view was that this was the church he was raised in – it was good enough for his parents, so it was good enough for him. Like many, many other Catholics he really didn’t buy each and every dictate and bit of dogma that comes out of Vatican City (he was married to a divorced non-Catholic, for starters), and was really quite unfazed by this. We only went to confession one time after my first reconciliation, a fact that has caused my husband to remark that my dad must really have done something bad.
As my dad explained in a letter to a cousin of mine who was experiencing significant personal troubles at the time, long walks, fresh air, and sunshine brought him a deep personal connection to his place in the world and to the undeniability of a higher power. He found inspiration in his hunting dog, Kramer, who would bound down the stairs each morning and leap out the front door to greet the dawn, ears flying and face turned to the sun, his joy in being alive and in the universe having more to it than anyone can know evident on his shining face. (At my dad’s funeral the deacon commented approvingly on my father’s statement that he had learned more about God from Kramer than from any sermon in church.)
Sometimes I wonder whether my more devout, Bible-quoting friends have a stronger sense of faith than I do just because they are quick to connect their daily life and events to something in scripture and I can’t. The fish in my car required me to think a minute about what the symbolism was and why exactly we were getting a new pet at Sunday Monday School. But I pulled it off, telling the kids the story about how Jesus fed a crowd of thousands with just one fish (which resulted in an urgent need to get a bigger tank to accommodate Stink/Jake/Rex and the thousands of baby fish sure to materialize imminently). As I drove us all home I reminded myself that what connects me to God isn’t whether or not I have immediate Bible recall, but my sense of wonder at the world and my place in it that I was blessed to gain from my dad.
The next day we went to Petco to get a bigger tank, because the hell if I am going to face the expiration of a divine fish and a corresponding crisis of faith! My kindergartner suggested maybe Rex should have a tankmate and chose a shiny silver guppy to set off Rex’s blackness, kindly leaving it to his older brother to choose a name. Which is: Darwin. No, I am not kidding. I guess there’s a fish named Darwin in “The Amazing World of Gumball”. The irony of our Sunday School fish sharing tank space with the father of evolution may horrify some, but it works for me. And so the new companions swim on.