Station to station

I'm always surprised where and when small memories of my childhood seem to pop up. Last month, it was in my son's CCD folder.

Eldest was given some Lent and Easter materials in his church school folder on Palm Sunday, and Wife took that stuff out last week before his first post-Easter class. Among the things in his folder was the same Stations of Cross booklet my own grade school used back in the 1970s.

Titled "The Way of the Cross for Young Christians," the index card-sized, 32-page booklet is used for Stations of the Cross -- a Catholic church ritual devoted to path Jesus took after getting his cross to his eventual burial. The booklet, aimed at kids, adds a 15th station -- Jesus' resurrection, possibly to give the story a happy ending to kids following along. Each station started the same:

V. We adore you or Christ and we praise you.
A. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

A description of the particular station followed, with a prayer for children to recite afterward. The illustrations within screamed 1960s youth literary art -- not surprising this booklet was first published in 1970.

Every Friday during Lent at St. Eugene's, we sat in church for Stations. And we read from these booklets,usually stored in a white box stashed in the bookshelves underneath the windows and adjacent to the heating vents. Years, decades later, I remembered those booklets and wondered if they were online as a .pdf file, or even on eBay. But I never remembered the title of the booklet and never got anything by just searching for "purple Stations book."

Turns out, I didn't have to search the Web to find this book again -- I just needed to wait for my own kids to start taking religion classes. Before leafing through the booklet again, I started recalling the format, picturing all the illustrations, and even remembering that the 12th Station (Jesus dies) didn't have an accompanying prayer (this was problematic when later in my grade school years, each grade read two of the prayers, and the fifth grade had to come up with its own prayer so it wouldn't get short-changed).

What I'm amazed about is that 40 years after being published, this might still be the best option for kids to learn about the Stations of the Cross. The illustrations are hopelessly dated and not as relevant as they were last century. For example, some of the illustrations depict kids smoking, a girl putting on lipstick, or a black kid being kept out of a volleyball game. Decades later, the temptations, injustices and concerns for kids definitely differ, if not have become more horrendous. Seriously, what's a bigger issue today: girls using lipstick or cyber-bullying?

Anachronisms aside, I'm still floored that I encountered this booklet again. Friday Stations weren't all that bad -- we got out of the last 45 minutes of our school week, and with Lent starting in winter and ending in spring, the five Lenten Fridays (excluding Good Friday, on which we were already on Easter break) passed as the seasons changed. There was nothing like getting outside on a Friday after Stations, and starting to the weekend, to a sunny spring day.

I'm wondering what the next St. Eugene's memory will suddenly show itself -- or which one I might have to seek. My sister is nostalgic for the orange songbooks we used for Mass. These were also usually stored underneath the windows in the bookshelves in front of the heating vents. We can still sing some of those songs (e.g., "Whenever we're together, in cold or stormy weather, you know we can't go wrong if we sing our song, blessed be God forever."), but I'm stuck on one thing: the name of the songbook -- because typing in "orange Catholic hymnal" doesn't work.


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