My mother was Methodist and my father was Catholic. As in most such marriages at that time, my mother agreed to raise her children in the Catholic faith. So, at the age of six, I started the first grade at the local Catholic School.
My mother’s father owned and worked a rather large fruit farm on Catawba Island, in the Lake Erie Islands, in Ohio, and from my first year of life until the age of ten, my mother and I spent the time I had as summer vacation on his farm, my older brother and father joing us for the weekends and helping in the orchards.
This was a wonderful time of my life, and even though I had to leave my playmates behind, I looked forward to this summer sojourn. Since my grandfather was not particularly religious, and my mother did not have a car of her own those days, we did not attend church during those weeks.
My teacher was a lovely, elderly nun named Sister Leonarda, who wondered just what we did about church while on Catawba, and asked me about it near the end of my first school year. Since I could not even imagine lying to a nun, I told her the truth. Sister was not entirely happy with my answer.
The first day of that summer, while Grandpa and I were getting ready for the after lunch nap we always shared, on the leather horsehair-stuffed chaise, I asked him why we didn’t go to church, any church, and said that I wanted to know so that I could Sister a good answer come the Fall. My grandfather looked at me and said, “Do not be disrespectful to your Sister, but do tell her that I live my life by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments, and therefore I have no need to go to church. Now close your eyes and take a nap.”
I don’t know if that answer pleased or displeased Sister Leonarda, but I do remember that she smiled when I related it to her. I do not dircredit religion. I still attend Sunday services, albeit not at a Catholic church, but I never engage in a spiritual discussion or activity that those words of my grandfather do not come to mind.
And, I know what a wondereful world it would be if everyone in it, regardless of race, color or creed lived by these simple precepts, for their teachings are relative to all peoples of the world. This I believe.
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