Shimer College

November 06, 2013

My First Experience with a Canon

Nate Wright on the Christian Canon

The Canon had one shot, and it was in second grade. I was already a thief, stealing my sister’s sixth grade reading books while she lined her bookbag with Sassy magazine and books from my parent’s shelf. I was a reading machine. Early in my introduction to Catholic school I told my mother that I wanted to be a priest (supposedly so I wouldn’t have children who bore any resemblance to my sister). That became a short-lived notion.

I had my chance mid-way through my first year at Catholic school. It was the second graders’ turn to participate in the weekly Mass. Every grade took a turn. The older students more often than the younger, but even the kindergartners got their chance.  Glory be to me, I had a chance to shine. I had been waiting since the first moment I found out we got to read in front of the entire school. I was a reading machine. The rest of my class sat being dragged through their phonics lesson with a hook through their cheeks. I could read the circles they ran around me at recess. This was my world.

They asked for volunteers. My parents were all about volunteering, and I spent a good many weekends training so that my hand could shoot up the fastest when the call came. Who wants to read for Mass? News flash: Second grader breaks sound barrier raising his hand in class. Scientists baffled.

You know who was baffled? That second grader who, for the first time in his life, had restrictions put on his reading.

 “Oh, I’m sorry, Outstanding Second Grader, you can’t read because you’re not Catholic.” 

@#$*% you, I can’t read. I read every day in class while these ‘Catholics’ are sounding out their words. I’m ready to commit, to fall deep in the words you give, if only I had the chance.  My voice is power because I am confident in what I see in front of me. Instead, break the words amongst the stutter of those still being reeled in by the phonics lesson, struggling with the word when I’m struggling with the message.

Since that day I’ve lost faith in authority. I was a willing tablet to be written on, but cast aside because my clay was different. I see behind you and want those that spoke softly and read on their own, that could make their own decisions amongst the noise of the crowd. Go to enough churches, and you’ll see enough people telling you the same thing in different ways.

I like the Canon. Not just for the picture it presents, but for the hues that swirl with light and shadow in the nuance of Christian thought.