Monday, September 11, 2006

God's Gold Stars

I suppose it would be peevish and infantile to blame the whole of my sarcasm on Sister Georgina's seventh grade catechism class, but if the habit fits...

Sister Georgina was a waifish, but hard woman. In fact, if you were playing twenty questions, I'd be hard pressed to describe her as anything other than a mineral. Animal and vegetable are too soft of categories for her being. Sister G' came into her own during the pre-VatII, Roman Catholic Church. She was hardcore. I spent many an afternoon wondering if she wore a hair shirt under her habit. Surely, she was a fan of self-flaggelation. As I reflect upon her, with maturity (ok...maybe maturity is the wrong word), I'd say she had two choices in life: a nun or a dominatrix.

Sometime during the seventh grade CCD schedule, as we were preparing for confirmation, we had to demonstrate our knowledge of various and sundry, Catholic dogma. We recited the Apostles and Nicene Creed. We recited the stages of the cross, in Latin. We partied like it was 1199AD. To keep track of these accomplishments, Sister G' would place a gold star on a graph chart. Well, as with most classrooms, there are those who are more efficient at cutting through the bullshit...and there are those that meander in it. So, by February, ye' olde' Holy Star Chart looked like the craggy, Rocky Mountains laid sideways. Those of us who were farther along in the process (the Pike's Peak and Eisenhower tunnel crowd, if you will) resorted to passing notes and playing MASH while the other kids slogged through endless and tireless recitations of apostolic consitutions. Sister G' would often invite the resident Priest or Monseignor in to hear our recitations and/or regurgitations.

One Tuesday afternoon, in March, my friend David and I sat opposite each other and whizzed through the deck of saint cards (I shit you not, SAINT CARDS).
"St. Philomena...patron saint of babies.", I said lazily.
"St. Martin of Tours...uh'...patron saint of...warriors?", questioned David.
I sighed loudly and flipped my hair out of my eyes, "Patron saint of soldiers. Close enough."
David held up my next card. "St. Jerome. Librarians." I threw down my cards, "THIS SUCKS!" David agreed. "We already know this stuff front wards and backwards!" Again, David nodded in agreement. His eyes twinkled as he suggested the following, "Wanna' freak Sister G' out?" THIS is why I loved being paired up with David. For the next twenty minutes, we decided to memorize the Nicene Creed. In latin. Backwards. Since we knew it forward, in Latin, it really didn't take that much time to figure out. We giggled and snorted the whole way through. At five minutes to six, we thought that our hijinks had saved us from another boring day in CCD. Suddenly, however, a dark figure appeared behind David, "WHAT are you two doing?" Ummm. Nothing. "If it's so wonderful, I'm sure you won't mind sharing it with the class! UP!" With that, Sister G' and her guns of steel hauled David and I up, by the back of our polo shirts, and stood us in front of the class. Father Dennis, a nice man seated himself in the front row and looked at us like an adoring father. "Please, chidlren...share with me what you have learned on this beautiful afternoon.", Fr. Dennis beamed. David and I took a gulp of air and.... *pause*
If you've never seen a nun turn white and grab for her rosary, whilst chanting an exorcistic prayer, ... you really ought to check it out. It's quite entertaining. For you see, David and I had become so fluent in the memorized, Latin recitations, that doing it backwards was actually quite melodic. Fr. Dennis was dumbstruck, for a moment. He interupted our recitation with a wave of his hand and then invited Dave and I into the hallway for a chat. Sister G' trembled at the back of the room. Never before had I seen this woman tremble! For a brief moment, I wondered if I had stigmata or something. Sister G' picked up her crucifix and started barrelling down the rows towards David and I. Fr. Dennis interceded and led us into the hallway. "Do you mind if I ask where you learned that?", he inquired. David, head bent, said "We were just bored. It was HER idea!" (THE FUCK? My idea?!) I, sensing an imbalance in the force, said something brilliant like, "Nuh' uh'!! It was his idea." Fr. Dennis' head bowed. His toe started to tap, as if impatient. His hand covered his mouth and his eyes clamped shut like a vice. This was it. I knew it. We were to be banished to some sort of purgatory for nun scarers. With heads and eyes down cast, David and I waited for our punishment. But,... quietly, like the tinkling of broken crystal, we heard it. Faint at first, but gradually louder,...the soft hiss of a priest trying to contain his laughter. Fr. Dennis' shoulders heaved until he couldn't contain his laughter any more. When he regained composure, he knelt down to our level and said, "Let's just stick with the regular recitations. Eh', kids?" He guided us back in the room, reached into his pants pocket, and put RED stars next to the names on the chart. "I think these children have a handle on the catechism, Sister Georgina."

David and I played it cool for the rest of the year. Sister G' avoided us like tomain poisoning at a dinner party. To this day, I'm sure she thought that David and I were possessed. When I think back on the hours of CCD that I endured, it's depressing. But, knowing that I was a red star on a gold chart makes me feel a little special. I guess you could say, I became a "marked" woman, that day. :) David? He became a priest.


Anonymous said...

Man I enjoyed reading that! So friggin hilarious! This is Virginia btw. I can't seem to log in as myself for some reason. I probably have the password wrong. Yeah, I'm a dork. ;)

erin said...

You? Are evil. I LOVE IT.

Fr. David D said...

I can't believe you remembered this. I had forgotten about the red stars. Thanks for sending me the link. Do you ever talk to either of the Graham boys?

Damien said...

Wow! I thought "she could be a nun or a dominatrix" was going to be the highlight of the story, but I was wrong...