As my four younger daughters and were I were en route to the local library last night I asked Daughter No. 3 how her most recent Sunday evening religious education class had gone. Three of the four are preparing for confirmation and are in the first year of a two-year program. They are about as enthusiastic as any young teen would be about having to spend 75 minutes every Sunday evening learning about religion.
Daughter No. 3 was quick with her response: “We didn’t learn anything.”
Me: “What do you mean, you didn’t learn anything?”
D3: “We had a party because we won’t have another class until after the holidays.”
Me: “Well, that must have been nice, right?”
D3: “Oh, yeah.”
I then decided to see how much or – more likely, in her case – how little she was enjoying the class. “How about I ask you some questions about what you’ve learned this year?” Her sisters, sitting in the back seat, and likely hoping for a repeat of this memorable Q-and-A session, immediately voiced their assent.
“Dad!” Daughter No. 3 broke in. “No! You always ask me hard stuff. About the bible. You know I don’t know bible stuff!”
Now, to be fair, Daughter No. 3 is an exceptionally bright young lady. She has a very good chance of finishing the current semester with straight A’s and just last week learned she had earned recognition as a South Carolina Junior Scholar.
That said, she is not on the fast track for a doctorate in Theology.
“Okay,” I relented, “how about if I ask you about the sacraments? I’m sure you’ve gone over those, right?”
Me: “Really? You haven’t gone over the sacraments?”
D3: “Dad, we’ve only been to class a couple of times.”
Me: “You’ve been going since October, so it’s been more than a couple of times. Just name the sacraments. I’ll give you a hint: There are seven of them.”
D3: “Um, marriage, baptism, communion … confirmation … “
And then the fun began.
Me (sarcastically): “Yes, being born is a sacrament. Everybody automatically gets a free sacrament just by being born.”
Me: “Ah, another free sacrament.”
D3: “Sick. Being sick. Helping the sick.”
D3 (laughing): “How about a hint?”
Me: “What kind of hint?”
D3: “Tell me what the first letter of one of them is.”
Me: “’H.’ One of them starts with ‘H.’” (Sacrament of holy orders)
Me (Laughing): “No, but a nice try. That, I suppose is one of the goals of the sacraments, but, no, heaven is not a sacrament.”
D3: “Ah, man. How about another hint? Tell me the next letter?”
Me: “’O,’ as in ‘H-O.’”
D3 (with a quizzical look); “I have no idea.”
Me: “Let’s try another one. It starts with ‘R.’” (Sacrament of reconciliation, or confession.)
D3: “Uh, recreation!”
Me (laughing harder): “That’s right, playing kickball or baseball counts a sacrament.”
D3: (now just fishing for words that start with R): “ … re-, re-, reincarnation!”
Me (head titled down, simply staring at D3): “Oh, did I miss the memo from the pope about the Catholic Church opting to include reincarnation – a central belief among Buddhists and Hindus – as a sacrament?”
D2, D4, D5: Louder laughter.
D3: “These are too hard. Just tell me what the rest of them are.”
D2 and D4 (In unison): “I know, I know.”
(Daughters 2 and 4 are also in the confirmation class.)
“Okay,” I say, pointing to D2, “what’s another one?”
Me: “Yes. That would be the one that starts with ‘R.’”
D3: “Oh, yeah!”
I then point to D4
D4: “Anointing of the sick.”
D3: (quizzically): “What is that?”
Me: That would be the sacrament you received the day you were born, when you were very sick.”
D3: “Oh, yeah.”
Me: “Oh, yeah.”
Me: “And who knows the last sacrament?”
D4: “The one where you become a priest.”
Me: “Yes, it’s called holy orders. That would be the one that starts with an ‘H’ and ‘O.’”
I then gave Daughter No. 3 a quick glance, to which she shrugged.
“Congratulations,” I said, “You got four out of seven. That’s about, oh, 57 percent.”
D3: “Thank you, thank you very much.”