This is the Palace of Fine Arts--
Leaving on a jet plane?
What one man can do
I am a theatre critic
OK...so it's a new "career", but if you're interested in reading my reviews, go here
WHAT I'M READING
Lynn left this book for me; I'd just seen a discussion on Oprah about it and was anxious to read it.
(yes, I finally finished John Denver's autobiography...I didn't have that much time to read!)
That's it for today!
ANSWERING "THE CALL"
4 February 2001
It happens early in the life of a Catholic elementary school child. At least it did when I was an elementary school child. Around about third grade, S'tr ("Sister") stands up in front of the students during religion class. She gets very quiet. She gives you "that look." Her eyes slowly pan over the class and she says "I know that there are three of you in this room who have been called by God. You have a vocation."
Picture 60 little kids looking at each other like the disciples at the Last Supper. "Is it I, Lord?"
It's a clever recruiting technique, of course. Instill doubt, plant the seed, and wait for the right moment to pounce.
I went through the "Is it I, Lord" stage for many years until about junior year in high school. I was Miss Goody Two-Shoes, teacher's pet. I was that sickening person who was at early Mass, said the rosary at lunch time, and you just knew that the sisters figured they had found a live one.
Add to that the fact that I had a huge crush on my typing teacher, Sister Anne. I got to school early, stayed late, helped her around the school, got the top grades in typing class, helped with the office machines, and naturally wanted to be just like her. That must have meant I was one of those with a vocation. I was going to be a nun.
Sister Anne was transferred after that year--probably just as well, though we remained close friends until her death a few years ago, and Jeri (Jerilyn Anne) is named for her.
But I was firmly set on my path. I announced my decision to become a Daughter of Charity. The Sisters were thrilled and I began to be included in the fringes of life behind the cloister door. (I think I actually saw a nun chew food...we students were convinced they never ate.) I was very happy when I was chosen to wear a habit during our vocation tableau and felt so sad when I had to take it off. Now that my decision had been made, I was focused on the new life ahead of me.
Things were different in those days. Now, religious wear civilian clothes, they live in their own apartments, some of them, and they have a lot more freedom. In the 1960s, going into the convent meant wearing the heavy habit (and in the case of the Daughters of Charity, the white cornet, like Sally Field wore in The Flying Nun), living in a convent, never being permitted to go home to see your family again.
My father hit the ceiling. His daughter was not going to throw away her life. Ironically he, the Catholic-from-birth was livid about the church stealing his child, where my mother, the recent convert, was very supportive. It was she who stood up for me, forced my father to see that I was doing what I wanted to do, and made him agree to let me go.
The papers were signed, my plane ticket to St. Louis was purchased. I was to enter the convent in September of 1960. My classmates went off to college or got married, I had a last fling. My mother, grandmother and I went to Hawaii on vacation. I spent a lot of time with my boyfriend.
I started buying the things I would need for my new life and giving away a lot of the things that belonged to my old life. I bought a big trunk and all those clunky clothes that I would need during my six months as a postulant, after which I would get kind of the intermediate habit. I learned how to do my own hair, since my mother had done it for me up until that point in time. I would have to learn how to be independent.
Problem was that the deeper I got into the planning stage, I found I was kind of doing things half-heartedly. My original excitement had begun to be replaced by fear of the unknown and questions about whether I was really ready for this big step. The nuns commented to each other that I wasn't laughing about the clunky shoes or the funny clothes the way most new postulants do, and that I was getting more and more silent as the departure day approached.
As it happened, Sister Anne returned to San Francisco for a retreat that summer and before she left, she asked me to come and see her. We sat and talked for a long time. We talked about how serious I was, what my reservations were, and whether or not this was what I really wanted to do.
There was a big part of me which wanted to do this with all my heart. But there was also a part of me which was having to deal with my father's pain at the thought of my leaving, with knowing I would never see my family again, and so many other things.
After we talked, Sister Anne gently suggested that perhaps I wasn't quite ready to make this life commitment yet. She suggested that I take some more time. Give it six months, she said, and if it was still something I wanted to do, I could reapply at that time. There was a big part of me that felt so sad, but also a part of me that was relieved, realizing that I wasn't sure if I was ready for such a radical life change at that point.
So we turned in the plane ticket and sold the clothes to another girl who was going into the convent. I took a job at the school, and took night classes at the University of San Francisco.
At the end of six months, I decided that I really did not want to enter the convent after all. Was it the right decision' I still don't know. But it felt right at the time.
My father insisted I attend UC Berkeley and become a teacher ("I let you do it your way, now you're going to do it my way"). (In the 1960s, it was a lot easier to get into Berkeley than it is now!)
I did go to Berkeley, where I flunked out gloriously, but had a great time while doing it. I then went to work for the university, got married, and started birthin' babies. I had taken the safe, predictable path and everyone was relieved that I hadn't thrown it all away by moving across the country.
I suppose that when it comes down to it, I made the right decision. So much has happened in the past 40 years and it's hard to think of having missed it (to say nothing of five wonderful people who would never have existed if I had made that choice).
Still, there is a piece of me that thinks back to the early days of my "calling," and wonders if I really did have a vocation, and whether I should have thrown caution to the wind and just gone for it.
Created 2/2/01 by Bev Sykes