First off, I want to say sorry to all the Sunday school teachers who had the misfortune of having me as a student in the years leading up to my Confirmation. I was obtrusive, loud, unengaged, and if I am being perfectly honest a real brat. So what do I have to say in my defense? Not much really. To tell you the truth I just did not want to be there. I guess there was a level of anger at having to “waste” my time outside of school learning about a religion that never really made me feel like I wanted to be a part of the same club as everyone else. No kid really wanted to be there learning about Jesus and Moses and all that biblical stuff but I was a kid who liked to ask a lot of questions, and when it comes to the bible that is the last thing you really want to do. I read too much for my own good and that led to me feeling confused about learning that the world is one way then hearing from my Sunday school teacher that it is actually the opposite. How can Adam and Eve have been the first people if we evolved from monkeys? How can God be both Jesus and The Holy Spirit? Did God seriously have Abraham almost kill his own son just to make a point?

Upon further reflection once again I find my anger was misdirected. The people who taught Sunday school did so out of their own free time and were there because they wanted to teach. Which meant they were not there to debate creation with some snot-nosed brat thinking he was all that because he fell asleep to a National Geographic documentary one night. I guess I felt that I was owed some reason as to why I was really there other than the fact that my parents signed me up. Learning to come to grips with the world around you is daunting for any kid, and when I heard the priest say that God had these answers I really did give this whole Catholicism thing a good try. I wanted to have that thing inside me that I saw everyone else with at church on Sundays. The thing that let them say the words in the bible with unwavering conviction and understanding instead of the uncertainty and emptiness that I felt when I held that big brown book up to my eyes. I wanted to have the same connection as everyone else did with this religion that no matter how hard I tried just felt so alien to me. Learning about this place called Hell where God sent all the sinners to their unending torture did not help much, either. Was this going to be my fate if I did not love being Catholic as much as everyone else? Where there is fear there is anger, and my fear turned to anger whenever I sat in the ancient brown desks of our Sunday school classrooms. Oh, and just to clarify things, I was not this brooding intellectual grappling with the uncertainty of his own faith; I was a middle school kid trying to make my friends laugh and disrupt the teacher at every turn. I got sent outside of the room more times than I can remember. After about ten minutes the teacher would open the door and ask me if I was ready to rejoin the class and behave, and let me just say if Jesus was watching up in the clouds he would sigh every time I said yes, because we both knew it was a load of crap. The ultimate punishment they would give you if you kept acting out was to send you into the Sister’s office, which was akin to being sent to the principal’s office, something my public schooling career had made me quite familiar with. I remember the experience so well; I would be sitting outside her office like a death row inmate, and then her door would creak open and with one bony finger she would beckon for me to enter. The first time I thought it was not really a big deal since, there was no recess for her to take away from me, and her kicking me out of Sunday school would be a huge relief. I have never been more wrong in my life. If you go your whole life without pissing off a woman who has dedicated her whole life to God, consider yourself lucky. First she hits you with the penance stare, a gaze so piercing you can hardly breathe. After about an eternity of this, she begins to really dig into you, not with insults or threats but stone cold disappointment. She will go on about how much she believed in you and how hard everyone here works and ask you why you feel the need to torture these poor teachers. Finally and most damning, in true Christlike fashion she will forgive you and only ask that next time you do better. You expect to get chewed out when you are in trouble but for someone to still believe you can do better after you let them down, that is what really stings. I swear I really did take the Sister’s words to heart at the time, but I am afraid to say that after a while I would be back on my path of disruption. No matter how hard I tried I just could not sit back and read passage after passage of things that made no sense to me.

My Sunday school experience finally came to an end when I reached eighth grade and it was time for my confirmation. There was this whole big ceremony at the church and I had to pick out a Confirmation name and wear this weird pure white gown. The last Sunday school class came and went and we got confirmed with no real fanfare from me. I got in, kneeled before the bishop, told him peace be with him (I was supposed to say peace be with your spirit), and then BAM, I was officially an adult in the eyes of the church. Ironically, being confirmed is supposed to represent the strengthening of your relationship with God, but for me it pretty much marked the end. So what did I get out of this? Well, for one thing the Confirmation gown I had to wear became an invaluable prop for a number of films I would make with my friends that required some sort of ghost or God character.

On a more serious note when I look back at my time in Sunday school I don’t really feel bitter about it. Sure, I don’t see it as the most effective use of my time back then, but it made my parents happy and I had a pretty good time goofing off with friends. Religion is not a part of my life right now, but that does not mean that I did not get anything out of it. I think that Jesus guy had the right idea. We should be nicer to each other and not be so materialistic and all that good stuff. Actually, it is not really hard to find any number of good stories in the bible, stories that have had a profound effect on me and made me a better person for it. Hell is not so scary to me anymore, either. If God really loves everyone then I think he can deal with me skipping out on going to church, and instead trying to do right by my fellow humans. Whatever happens after life I think that, as long as I was all around a pretty good guy, then God will let me pass through those pearly gates. If there are even gates at all. I have few regrets in life but it definitely would not have killed me to maybe pay attention a little more in Sunday school, if only to make my teacher’s life a little easier. Who knows, there could have been a star student deep inside me just waiting to surface, although knowing myself I would probably have better luck turning water into wine. Even after everything there are still moments where I find myself praying, not directly to god, but just sending my good thoughts to whomever or whatever happens to be listening. I always liked the idea of asking for help even when you know no one’s going to answer. That might sound silly but to quote Corinthians 5:7: “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

Brendan Letizia is a freshman majoring in Film at SVA.