The Paraclete

by Jean Cassidy

In Chicago, 1952 on Francisco Avenue in St. Timothy's Parish, Protestant religions of all kinds were suspect and spoken of with squinty-eyed relish. Exposure to Protestant beliefs could be a slippery slope to spiritual ruin.

After Mass one Sunday in the fall of that year, a young girl was invited by her friends, Mary and Martha, to the children's program at the First United Methodist Church. Though she could have been excommunicated, she risked it. The pew and the kneeler were padded. During the program all three surreptitiously chewed gum and swung their legs to the music. Afterward the child longed to be a United Methodist.

At home there was a split decision about the Protestants versus the Catholics. In soft Gaelic-laced tones the young girl's paternal grandma, Nana, praised the infallibility of both the Pope and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Her maternal grandmother, a Lutheran, cautioned people that “consorting with Roman Catholics was a dangerous undertaking.” Gran was mainly a practical person who loved things clean and in their place. Whereas, Nana loved things in threes: the Acts of Faith; Hope and Charity; the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; a Straight Flush; a Royal Flush; and a Full House as well as a Triple Play in Thillens Stadium at the corner of Devon and Kedzie.

From among all the Saints and the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost owned the child's imagination; it could fly and it could disguise itself as an ordinary bird and show up almost anywhere. The Paraclete, known as the dove, the helper, the intercessor, hovered above her throughout most of second grade. Thinking of the word “parakeet” helped her remember the proper name.

That year she relied on the Paraclete. Also she hoped, despite the slippery slope, that the United Methodists knew about the Paraclete too.

Jean Cassidy was born in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Michigan as a clinical social worker and community organizer and was a member of the Dominicans of Adrian, Michigan for seventeen years. She and her partner, Va Boyle, relocated to Asheville, North Carolina in 1995. Since 2005, she has served as managing editor for SheVille of WNC, the women’s online magazine for Western North Carolina.  Jean's first chapbook, Toward the Clearing, was published by Main Street Rag in 2014.

About The Paraclete—Like a not-so-subtle battleground of ideology and religious belief, our multi-generational household during the 1950s could be tumultuous. (My brother and I knew what topics to tiptoe around.) In retrospect, the situation and interactions offered me not only an early education in human relationships, but also loads of rich story lines!