Monday, July 21, 2014

Orates Frates

I was very lucky when I was a kid. My immediate family, which was composed of my father, my mother, my brother, my grandmother, lovingly nicknamed Ia, and two spinster aunts, were very good people. 

Even though I spent eleven years in one of Havana's best private Catholic schools, thanks to the many sacrifices that my father had to make to send me there, the school was never very successful in inculcating in me the silly beliefs that many organized religions try to foster on young and impressionable children. You have to realize that when you are 5-7 years old, you assume, (make an ass of u and me), that grownup always tell the truth. That is not always necessarily factual or correct. 

We all have herd the silly stories of “If you are not a good boy, the boogeyman is gonna come tonight and get you.” or the equally idiotic “If you are bad, when you die you will go to Hell and burn there forever.” 

The school that I went to was excellent in teaching the kids about the three R's: reading, writing and arithmetic. In that area I give them an A+. 

But every day the school would start with one or two hours of “religion” class. What a waste of my time that was! 

On Wednesdays, we were sort of encouraged to go to “confessions,” and on Thursday's and on Sunday's they forced us to attend something they called “the mass.” 

The mass was performed in Latin. We did not know a word of Latin and since it was a dead language, it was not taught in school. My many thanks to whomever for that! 

But we had our fun during this so-called mass. At one point the priest (who always had his back to the people) turns around to face those congregated there and intones in a singing, and probably alcoholic voice: “Orates Frates.”  For the uneducated: that is Latin for: Let Us Pray Brothers. 

We, the kids, came up with a rhyming Spanish response to be said in very low voices among ourselves. 

We awaited, with little and quiet laughter, in total anticipation for the climax to perform our little skit. 

Finally, when the priest (who always wore silly costumes) turns around and says “Orates Frates” we would respond, in very low voices among ourselves:  Todos los curas comen aguacates.” (All the priests eat avocados.) In English it does not rhyme, and it is not funny at all, but in Spanish (the language of Cuba), orates, frates and aguacates do rhyme. We had a riot of fun and laughter at that point in the mass. 

Doing our little “fun time” made it bearable having to go to the silly mass. We had a lot of laughs doing that! 

On the other side, (the bad side) of the coin, during history class we were not taught about Charles Darwin or Karl Marx. It conflicted with the dogmas of the Catholic Church. I would have to wait to learn about those two very important historical figures until I moved to Portland, Oregon in April of 1962. By then, I was finally free of “The Opium of the Masses.” 

Thank you, Karl Marx, for giving me a true education in that area. 

But, you know what? I am not anti-religion at all. If it helps you, JUST DO IT! I myself proudly say:
I PASS.”

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