I was a protestant kid in a Catholic/Jewish neighborhood. I am not sure how I got my opinions of nuns, but my opinions were all second hand stereotypes. Mostly fearful - rulers were mentioned.
As an adult Quaker in Oregon, I became a pastoral counselor in a clinical setting. I had a seminary degree, but I was not completely satisfied with how I had been trained to walk in the liminal land where mental health and spirituality crossed.
I heard that the Sisters at the Queen of Angels monastery in Mt Angel had a two year Spiritual Direction program. I decided to investigate. I rode a 2 year old Rocinante out to be interviewed by the head of the program. A previous prioress of the Benedictine Sisters, Antoinette Traeger. I did not know what to expect. Apparently neither did she, because she enjoyed - for years - the telling of the morning that I rode up and she looked out her window and watched me shake my hair out, peel my leathers and try to look presentable. She said she didn't think that this was her apointment until I actually walked into her office.
What I remember was the very famous twinkle in her blue eyes. The easy smile. The ready welcome.
We became friends. She blew all my preconceived notions of the vocational religious.She delighted in blasting stereotypes - it was a habit we shared.
P: Antoinette, do you ever regret the celibate life? Do you ever wish you could have fallen in love?
A: Oh, Peggy, If you don't marry any of them. You call fall in love with so many more of them!
A: (in SD class) And of course, every has immediate access to God at all times.
P: No intermediary required?
A: Of course not.
P: Then can you please explain why you have one of the priests come down from the hill to do the bread and wine thing every day?
A: (Sigh) Well, If we didn't let him do that, he wouldn't feel very special, now would he?
I was staying over for a retreat - I went to Mass
A: Peggy, you know you are welcome at the Table, don't you?
P: Antoinette, you know I don't believe what you do about what's on that table.
A: Still welcome, dear.
P: If Father knew, he might not welcome me.
A: What Father doesn't know won't hurt him. The Host... might do you some good...
P: Sr. the restaurant in town has a beer called Ale Mary! What do you think of that?
A: My nephews own that restaurant. I am sure the Blessed Mother enjoys the wit! I do.
I disappointed her. I think I have disappointed all my mentors at some point or another. After Spiritual direction training, I started the discipline of a monthly overnight retreat with a spiritual director. I didn't choose Sr. Antoinette. I chose Sr. Jo Morton. I think I hurt her feelings. But I knew I could not work with her because I knew that I thought so much of her, and so craved her good opinion of me, that I knew I would lie to her, or at least spin.
She left the planet this week. I cannot imagine how many lives she changed. She walked around with so much wisdom and joy, that it did not take much time or effort for her to alter your path for the better. For me it was a permanent course correction.
Till we meet again.
With so much negativity in religion around the world in the news and in our personal lives here, it was a buoyant blessing to read your light-hearted reflection about dear Antoinette.Post a Comment
Reminds me of how different real persons often are from doctrinal abstractions and general statistics.
At our secular book club here, I met a Catholic sister who wasn't at all how I thought a dedicated Roman Catholic would be. When we asked her about various controversial doctrines of her Church, she chuckled and said, As a sister, I don't have to believe in any particular dogma. She said she was free to seek what was true what ever it was.
The joy of real individuals:-)
Thank you for this reflection--a bright sunbeam on this foggy, cold coastal day:-)