Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Vignettes from Catholic school life

Did I tell you the one about the ex-Catholic Mormon on the payroll?

Oh yeah. I did.

Let's do this one, from my own experience as a student.

Our senior religion teacher was a Sister of Mercy named Sister Rose. She was young, pretty, so nice, and how we loved her.

During homecoming week, there was a faculty-student basketball game scheduled. Sister Rose decided to play. The priest-principal said sure, okay.

But you have to wear your habit, Sister. We don't have nuns without habits on this campus.

(This was 1978 - it was a modified habit - blue, knee-length dress with a white collar. Veil. Sure, I guess she could have played basketball in it, but...why?)

Sister Rose was quite respectful of the principal and never displayed a hint of dissatisfaction to us, even when we asked her about it. She only told us a story.

She told us about a lady she visited once a week. She brought her groceries, sat with her, visited, did chores around the house for her. The lady was blind.

"I don't think she cares what I'm wearing," Sister Rose mused. "I hope she knows that I love God and I love her because of the way I act, not what I wear."

And I have to confess, from that day forward, I have been unperturbed by the issue of nun's habits. A couple of years later, when I spent a summer doing volunteer work in Harlan, Kentucky, and got to know two jeans-clad sisters who spent their days and much of their nights giving medical care to the impoverished only made the point clearer. Sure, I see the habit as a valuable sign, and sure, nuns are better off wearing habits than polyester print shirts and stretch pants. But for those that choose not to? Do I care? Not really. Do I judge? Not at all..

Well, except for Sister Gloria in Roanoke who wore designer suits and tons of makeup. Yeah, I judged her. Gotta confess.

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