Remembering Miss Strawson

For St Patrick's day today, as is our custom, we honoured the saint after Mass with his hymn. Each year when we sing Hail Glorious St Patrick, I remember Miss Strawson, the rather strict but, with hindsight, dazzlingly competent infant teacher who prepared us for Holy Communion at St Mary's in Croydon back in 1965.

From that time, I can repeat from memory the catechism answer that "God is the supreme spirit who alone exists of himself and is infinite in all perfections." We had to underline the word "supreme" several times to reinforce the truth that God is greater than the angels. We learnt all about them, and about Lucifer who said that he would not serve God. There was plenty of scripture too: Cain and Abel, Noah, Moses, and many stories from the gospels. We were taught to sing hymns and to understand them; "Bring Flowers of the Rarest" was the occasion for my learning that "azure" was a kind of light blue that we see in the sky.

I do also remember quite a lot of English, Maths, cross-stich sewing, football, rounders and a siesta after lunch. But the Religious lesson was always given the first and most important place. If I remember correctly, Miss Strawson was not particularly impressed by the Beatles and positively repelled by the Rolling Stones. The most feared disciplinary sanction was to be made to stand in the corner. I incurred this punishment on one occasion but I forget the offence which merited it.

Miss Strawson came to my priestly ordination and engaged in some perfectly legitimate boasting that she had taught me the rudiments of the faith. Do say a prayer for her. Since she probably went straight to heaven (she certainly knew about indulgences) there will be some poor soul who will thank her for your surplus intercession.

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