I was reminded this morning by a childhood school friend, that today is the feast of Saint Agatha of Scilily, who for many catholics today is noted as a patron for those suffering from breast cancer. My friend’s mother had succumbed to the disease many years ago. This may be the impetus that allowed her to think about the disease and its patron. It wouldn’t take much for her to look to the Saint of the Day calendar that hangs in her kitchen and be reminded of a portion of our pasts that we shared. My friend told some silly stories about our school days at Saint Agatha School in Milton, Massachusetts. Mostly she relayed many of my outlandish behaviors and what she thought were belligerent questions that I asked in class.
Now let me add a bit of a defense. I don’t remember some of what she rememberd. Also I was never beligerant, just inquisitive; well that is how I remember it. I recall asking my teacher why Eve was wrong in wanting to know everything; that, if I were a resident of the Garden of Eden, I probably also would have taken a bite of that apple. My teacher’s answer was thoughtful for the day. She said, “Kathleen, you will discover some day that you won’t want to know everything and that knowing can be a burden.” Since I was only in second grade at that moment of questioning, I asked her what the word ‘burden’ meant. So much was there for me to learn, that I realized even then her analysis was on point. Maybe I would never be able to retain all the information that could and did exist.
In third grade, I examined with a question to our teacher, the idea that if you were in the act of doing good and suddenly died, that you would immediately go to heaven. “Sister, why take a chance on going to hell. I should help an old person across the street and if I get hit by a car, then I’ll go right straight to heaven. I won’t ever have to worry about doing bad things.” Well as you can imagine the school contacted my parents and i was put under house arrest for a few days until I explained to my dad that my question was just logical.
Think about our children embedded in the horrors of 24/7 news stories on murder, rape, greed, corruption, war, and mayhem. Don’t think for a minute that they aren’t asking pointed questions about the stories they hear, and they hear stories that historically no adult would let a child ever hear. This brave new world means that our children have to be braver than we were. I sincerely hope that the future won’t have PSTD as its plague; that it won’t be the prevailing societal illness.
Just looking back while considering the future for our children; but still I am hopeful for us all.
K. B. Pellegrino, Author