Memories of growing up Catholic are good, especially during Easter Week

Pope Francis celebrates a Chrism Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Thursday. During the Mass the Pontiff blesses a token amount of oil that will be used to administer the sacraments for the year.

Editor’s Note: “Their Way” is a regular Sunday column that captures the personal style of the many public officials and other personalities and events covered by former Mesabi Daily News Executive Editor Bill Hanna during his more than 40 years of newspaper reporting, writing and editing.


Shovel snow off a basketball court in the morning for neighborhood pickup hoops games and then don the altar boy garb to serve Mass in the afternoon.

Easter Week at St. Clement’s was indeed memorable for a Nordeast Minneapolis boy.

Yes, there were some very dark things happening in the Catholic Church in the 1960s. We all know about them now.

They are things of Breaking News on television and headlines in daily newspapers; and they are disgusting. Victims of priesthood pedophilia during childhood are, sadly, scarred for life.

I’m fortunate not to have any such first-person experience to remember or document; or any accounts told to me by buddies.

Yes, we had one priest who could have used some anger management. But others were wonderful, including Father Sweeney whose only shortcoming was seeing priesthood possibilities in a certain young altar boy.

Oh well, we are all entitled to a faulty assessment or two.

My memories of growing up Catholic are good ones; especially during Easter Week.

There were no school days during Easter Week. That alone was pleasing to the mind.

That provided plenty of time to play pickup basketball on the snow-cleared outdoor courts and, if early spring weather allowed, baseball on fields where Mother Nature had already done the snow removal.

Spring was the prelude to long carefree summer days of youth, which can never be even remotely replicated.

It was a fine time of hope and renewal when the Major League Baseball season had begun, trees were budding, teen boys and girls started seeing each other in a bit of a different, exciting way; and adults seemed to have more of a skip in their step, their more tired eyes had found a refreshed view of life, and their patience was more plentiful.

And, for this altar boy at least, it was a time to serve with joy and a smile. Even recitation of the “dead language” of Latin during Mass was more than just bearable — it was actually enjoyable.

Everything just seemed better during Easter Week.

There was more and more growing daylight. A layer or two of clothes and jackets could usually be shed. Stocking caps and boots had pretty much been relegated to storage for several upcoming months. And an Easter tradition of candy, candy and more candy — kind of Halloween in April — awaited the sense of taste.

Yes, it was a good time to be a Catholic kid. And if you were an altar boy, it was a good time squared.

When serving Mass during Easter Week, the pews filled, unlike the weekday 6 a.m. services that you barely remember because you were half asleep when your peers were still in beds. And those in attendance were the most devout and dutiful of the congregation and most of them of your grandparents’ generation.

The Easter story being celebrated was never boring, no matter how many times it had been heard and re-enacted.

It’s just an amazing story of hope, unconditional love, treachery, the ultimate in forgiveness, and the triumph of humanity over evil.

Good wins out. No wonder Easter’s salutation is Happy Easter.

Our highly-driven, often silly, tech and celebrity society is too often one of cell phone and gamer connections and trivial adulation of those popular culture narcissists not worthy of such attention substituted for actual eye contact, personal communications, authenticity, and true heroes.

Easter Week is a good time to reflect on how far we have drifted apart; and how we so need to come back together.

I’m sure some who read this will see it as an out-of-touch Norman Rockwell-like fallacy of Easter Week.

To them I say, so what.

I think we all could take the time to enjoy a little more of Norman Rockwell than his marvelous pieces of artwork. His view and outlook on life deserve much more than just a passing glance or to just be seen as something old-fashioned and relevant only for nostalgia.

All of us, no matter age or lot in life, have our own Norman Rockwell images that create instant smiles and warm feelings.

I know it’s not trendy, but growing up Catholic, and most definitely Easter Week, will always be two of mine.


Next Week: Bernie Sanders is a crotchety, interesting declared socialist who is driving the Democratic Party’s establishment nuts. Good, they deserve it for what they did to rumpled Bernie three years ago.


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