Fish Stick Catholic

fishsticks.jpgCatholic baby boomers–at least in my Midwest town–grew up on fish sticks, salmon patties, and tuna-noodle casseroles every Friday of the year–not just the Fridays of Lent. Vatican II changed that practice–and many others–but those first memories run deep. I am interested in the diverse reality of all people–including the spiritual journey of pre-Vatican II baby boomers (I call them Fish Sticks) living in the post-Vatican II
May Altar, First Communion, 1950s Catholic items

My current focus is the result of two unrelated incidents. The first was the death of another World War II veteran–which left America  one step closer to losing the final, first-hand account of that historic event.

The second was a comment by my son about his First Confession: how he sat across from the priest, face to face; in a comfortable chair; in an airy, well-lit room; with a poster with the words to The Act of Contrition mounted on the wall; making the Sign of the Cross and telling the priest the one or two sins he was most sorry for.

It was the one or two sins that got me.

What happened to the Examination of Conscience listing mortal sins in bold-face type on the left page and venial sins on the right? What happened to memorizing the protocol of what we said and what the priest said, when we talked and when the priest talked, and of the obligation to recite every prayer word for word and confess every sin and the number of times we committed them? What happened to the bare kneeler, in a dark closet, waiting for light from the priest’s closet when he slid the board and revealed the tiny screened window between us?

It’s not that I wanted a harrowing experience for my son. It’s that I realized that he would never know what it was like for me; that the faith I handed down to him looked and sounded much different than the faith my parents handed down to me. Why? Because Catholic baby boomers–especially the oldest ones–grew up during two simultaneous historic events–the secular baby boomer revolution and the sweeping changes of the Second Vatican Council.

I don’t want to lose the first-hand accounts of that experience. And I don’t want to stay in the past as Mother Church continues into the future–always the foundation of never-changing truth and insight about God’s love for us. I want every Catholic–young or old; cradle or convert; boomer, Gen X, Millennial, and the generations to come to have a new appreciation of the unique place we hold on the American Catholic timeline of history–how it shaped us and those around us then and now. 

If you have memories  you’d like to share about

  • growing up Catholic
  • knowing someone who grew up Catholic
  • Catholics today
  • ordinary life today

please contact me or post them on a blog reply, fB, twitter, or Pinterest.


Victoria Ryan