Listen up, Seniors!

How often in conversation with elderly family members and friends do we become reminiscent and say, “Remember when …”

It’s a nostalgic phrase that keeps us connected to our younger days and motivates us to compare the past with the present … life in our youth vs. life in the 21st Century.

It seems such conversation flows from one idea to another. Comparisons are endless.

Remember when …. movies and radio were the main forms of entertainment?

Remember when …. movies and TV programs were only black and white?

Remember when …. telephones had party lines?

Remember when …. new cars sold for less than $1,000 and gas was 19 cents a gallon?

Remember when …. churches were always open?

Ah, now we’re getting to the heart of this column … more familiar territory … church life in the 1930s and ‘40s vs. the 21st Century Church.

Remember when ….

… parish property, in addition to a church and a school, included a rectory and convent?

… rectory served not only as residence for pastor and assistants (curates), but as parish office? It seemed every rectory came with housekeeper who also doubled as parish secretary.

… convent housed teaching sisters, with an elderly member assigned as cook and housekeeper?

… cassock and biretta (a stiff, square hat with three ridges on top) were worn by priests in and around church and school?

… habit was sisters’ traditional attire?

Remember when ….

… church included a main altar and two side altars … Mass was offered in Latin … the priest faced the altar … a Communion rail separated the sanctuary from the pews … only the priest touched the host as he distributed Eucharist to worshippers who knelt along the rail while the acolyte followed with a paten to catch a falling host … only boys were acolytes … eucharistic fast began at midnight … Saturday afternoon confessionals were busy with long lines of penitents?

… Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, offered at times after Mass and on special occasions, included the familiar “O Salutaris Hostia,” “Tantum Ergo” and Divine Praises … Forty Hours, a eucharistic devotion with sermon and solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, took place Friday, Saturday and concluded Sunday evening with a holy hour, sermon and procession with Blessed Sacrament and lengthy lineup of priests?
From memory and a 1970 Catholic Almanac for reference:

Remember when ….

… All Souls Day was solemnly observed Nov. 2 with special prayers and devotions for the dead?

… Christian Women’s Sodality was considered the heart of the parish, providing many services? Members attended a monthly Sunday Mass and breakfast.

… classroom desks, with seats attached to the front of the desks behind them, were arranged in rows with aisles in between? Some sisters seated pupils alphabetically; others reserved the front row for troublemakers. I could never understand why I sat in the front row center. I thought it was because Sister liked me.

Remember when ….

… cremation was forbidden … until 1963, when initially permitted for serious reasons of a public and private nature, and later allowed with liturgical ceremonies?

… CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) provided parish teens with social, spiritual and athletic activities?

… Ember days were observed for penance, thanksgiving and petition for divine blessings, generally four times a year, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the third Sunday of Advent, First Sunday of Lent, Pentecost and third Sunday of September?

Remember when ….

… First Friday was observed with reception of holy Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in reparation for sin?

… Good Friday observance focused on the Passion and Death of Jesus in Tre Ore (noon to 3 p.m.) services?

… on Holy Saturday at noon Lent was officially over and giving up candy was celebrated with a trip to Woolworth’s Five and Dime for a huge chocolate egg with name inscribed?

… Easter Sunday Mass was a fashion show, with everyone wearing their newest clothes … and ladies’ hats were the crowning glory?

… hats were worn by women whenever attending Mass or church services?

Remember when ….

… Holy Name Society included the men of the parish, mainly fathers and sons, who filled a monthly Sunday Mass followed by a breakfast served by the Christian Mothers?

… indulgences were emphasized as a means of remission of temporal punishment for sins already forgiven?

… Missals and/or prayer books were used by worshippers attending daily and Sunday Mass?

… missions in parish churches were weeklong events led by a fire and brimstone preacher, generally from a religious order?

Remember when ….

… novena was a popular devotion of nine consecutive days or weeks with prayers for a special intention? You probably heard this one: The guy goes to confession. He confesses he stole some wood. For his penance, the priest tells him to make a novena. He says, “Father, if you got the plans, I got the lumber.”

… pagan babies, according to teachers, were “ransomed” and baptized by missionaries for $15.

… Protestant church attendance and services, especially weddings and funerals, were taboo for Catholics.

… sick call sets, including two blessed candles and small bottle of holy water packed in a cross-shaped box with a sliding top, were recommended for every Catholic home in case of emergency?

Remember when …. can go on and on. What can you add?

Having lived through these unforgettable years, we might tell the Lord …

Thanks for the memories!

(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)