mercredi, juin 03, 2009

Sister acts

Nuns fascinate me. As a college student, and a newly baptized Christian, I would make retreats at a local Episcopal convent. Headed by the tiny, slightly ethereal Sr. Felicitas, St. Margaret's House was a lovely old Victorian mansion -- a perfect setting for the sisters and the visitors who came seeking a divine "showing." I recall having a few nuns over for dinner -- you mean they actually left the convent?

Having gotten to know some of the sisters, I was very happy to find out they had a Philadelphia convent (now closed) and spent many evenings there, reading Henri Nouwen and Rumer Godden and Thomas Merton, sitting slightly impatient through what seemed like endless responsorial psalms during the Offices, and chatting with the nuns, some of whom became friends.

As an assistant chaplain at a local university, I worked with a Catholic nun and her supervisor, a charming young priest (we concelebrated the Eucharist once, so I'll not mention his name). Surprise to no one, he left the priesthood, got married, and is now a pastor in another denomination.

So when I told the residents of the nursing home I visited that I wouldn't be back, because a new rector is coming to Calvary in hmmm, 28 days, but who is counting,I gave the Catholic sister a particularly warm farewell. Without fuss or bother, she would sit among the sleeping and the wheel-chair bound and take communion from me. Not rebelliously as far as I could tell. Not because she was being polite. To all appearances, she was simply doing what you do when you are with a brother or sister Christian -- sup at the same table.

I respect the conscience of other Christians who don't feel it's right to do that. I realize that in her denomination, it is seen as act of disobedience. But I was happy in this time and place, to share our broken and redeemed humanity, more profound that all barriers that others put up to keep us separate.

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