Yesterday I watched “The Bells of St. Mary’s” with Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby. That movie takes me back to my grammar school days at St. Josephat’s. Just like in the film, the nuns wore full habits and the pastors visited the school often to check up on us and see how we were doing.
Our pastor used to arrive without warning. We would jump up from our desks and stand at attention until he told us to sit down. Then he would quiz us on our Catholic faith and remind us to say our prayers. As I recall, he didn’t sing like Bing Crosby but he would chant during the mass. And the nuns always deferred to his authority.
The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were very strict. Their first order of business was keeping us in line…literally. Every time we entered or left the school, changed classrooms, or went to the “washroom” as they called it back then, it was always in a line!
We would usually line up by alphabet. Since my last name started with “S” I was usually toward the back of the line. But sometimes we lined up by height and I made out better that way as I was usually one of the shortest in the class.
But when lining up for church, my teacher would usually call me out and have me sit next to her or right in front of her. You see, I always got in trouble for talking in church. I don’t know what I was so chatty about because I was serious about my religion and a very devout communicant. Maybe I was just easily distracted.
I chuckle now that as an Episcopal priest, I get paid to talk (preach) in church! But back then, I certainly wasn’t rewarded for it. In fact, I received a lot of check marks on my report card for that behavior.
Today I give thanks for my Catholic schooling and especially for the spiritual foundation it gave me. I feel especially blessed that I grew up in a world where God was just a prayer away.
At the end of the movie, “Bells of St. Mary’s,” Mother Superior is in the chapel and she is praying about her unexpected transfer from her beloved school.
Sister Mary Benedict asks God to help her accept her situation, and to remove all bitterness from her heart. Now that is a prayer for the ages and one that will never go out of style.
I will make her prayer my prayer during this Second Week of Advent:
“Lord, help me accept my situation and remove all bitterness from my heart. Amen.”