At 16, because of problems at the public high school, I am sent to a Catholic girls’ high school. It is an unique experience for me to be taught by nuns and priests, to follow the practices of morning, noon and evening prayer, daily rosary, frequent confession, first Friday communion, to wear a drab navy uniform, no make-up, no bare legs, to be made to think about the religion into which I was baptized, along with its obligations, a religion which my parents and grandparents ignored, except for, perhaps, in their hearts.
I am intimidated, silent before my teachers, absorbing doctrine and practices with fear, belief, curiosity and sometimes boredom as the priest or nun dwells too long on a fault, a habit, a sin to expunge or better still, to avoid. Oh, the pitfalls that could and would confront us chaste teenage virgins.
a little fib nibbles
at my sleep
Was I interested in the religious life, in becoming a nun, a teaching sister, a nursing sister, a missionary? No, I say to the nun who asked. Out of a class of 98 three say yes.
They don’t stick, all those drills and habits instilled during the two years of high school, followed by four more years at the college run by the same order of nuns. Practices and routines fall away like leaves in October, sometimes returning, budding anew months, years later for a short time, until the cycle repeats itself. The core of belief remains, often unacknowledged, but there, guiding my thoughts and actions, giving hope and solace, raising questions that remain unanswered, raising doubt, yet stubbornly hanging on. I join my parents and grandparents in a faith stripped of accoutrements and accessories, but imbedded within my being.
the route home
Bottle Rockets #24, Winter 2011