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Monday, October 31, 2005

Call me Sister Peter

I love Halloween. I love the costumes, and I love the solemnity of Mass.

This year I nearly didn't dress up, but happily, I came across some wonderful items of note on the history of the celebration of Halloween...and I realized that to not dress up meant a lost opportunity for subtle evangelization.

Let me explain.

Today, just for today, I was a nun. I could have passed for either a Carmelite (without the creame colored cape), or I could have passed for a Poor Claire. I considered going as St. Therese, the Little Flower..I have a chubby face, too (I think so), but I think my 30-something lines belie my lack of innocence...that, and the fact that the reference to flowers and the crucifix in my arms would have been lost on my audience.

I realized today, just before the "costume parade" of the 6 or 7 of us with enough dubious courage to dress up, that I needed to meet people where they are at. What did I really want out of this day? Was it about me and how "holy" I am as a Catholic? Or is it about reaching out, educating, and finding a point of identification? Could I maybe extend a fun view of the Church from within, using a symbol which is serious and real and heartfelt...but somehow help people see the reality? The humor?

In August I attended a wine and cheese party at a fellow Catholic's home, and she had found some napkins displaying a nun and a glass of red wine. The caption: Sister Mary Merlot. There was a whole line of "Sister Mary Merlot". I thought it to be hilarious and my friend thought so too, but she was actually terrified that she would offend me. Why? Because she was one of the first people I confided in, revealed my heart to regarding my search for a Vocation within Mother Church.

We will never know the intent behind the person who created "Sister Mary Merlot" and "Sister Claire Chardonnay" items...was it to ridicule the Church? Was it just another comedic character people might want to read into? Does it matter? What matters is our respose...can we have a little clean fun with the images and see the humor as we celebrate our fellowship in the Catholic faith? Definitely!

So today as I stood in line, I realized that a woman (also a faithful Catholic) was introducing the various characters. I didn't know what to say. To say "Carmelite Nun" Or "St. Therese" or "Poor Claire" was kind of a dud...I needed to keep the audience. So I blurted out, "Sister Mary Merlot!"

She loved it and so did the audience.

I even got to clutch my Bible, kneel, and pray...right out in public, and it was not out of place! (Actually, my prayer was, ""God, I don't mean to offend you...please don't let me make too much of an idiot of myself or you!")

I did not win the costume contest, but I was not out to do so. I was really out to just share my faith in a fun, approachable way. Consider this: I got to publicly be in a not-so-subtle way the Catholic I may be inside. I got to wear a blessed St. Benedict Crucifix, I got to show my Rosary all day and I got to get an idea of what it means to be veiled all day long.

Normally, in our secular society, it is not PC to be "out" about religious beliefs....but I got to do it today. And people loved it and loved my costume. It did not show in their votes, but in their visits to me in my cube.

I have to admit, though...I denied Christ today...dressed as his spouse, I denied him. A co-worker asked me, "What made you want to dress like THAT!?"

Inside, something (the Holy Spirit?) was nudging me strongly to reveal to her, a non-practicing Catholic, that I was discerning a Vocation. I was not really sure I should do so or that I was ready for my co-workers to know, so I told her simply, "Well...I'm Catholic...I know some Sisters...." I have also been struggling, not sure that I am called, thinking that may have been an why go public with something which is patently false? So in the end, I just let her laugh at me and I laughed with her. She called me "Special".

What a cop-out. I'm ashamed of myself. Sure, publicly I called myself "Sister Mary Merlot", a parody of a nun, but when really given the opportunity to witness to the power of Christ, I took a weak position. I denied Christ. You should call me Sister Peter.

Pray that I will never be "Sister Judas".

Later on, though, I spoke with another co-worker, the same one who was introducing characters. She is a devout Catholic and we spoke at length about the faith. I did reveal to her my discernment...and to witness this was an unknown co-worker...and I know he heard. He even looked at me funny later when he saw me.

I just smiled and realized what I should have done when I had denied Christ.

I also considered the weight of the veil, even the dishtowel/ cloth remnant I used, and throughout the day it was a reminder to me as to who I serve. I realized how unworthy I am to be the spouse of Christ.

I realized that if it were for real, the silliness would have to be gone...the humor could remain, but as the spouse of my King, I would have to be more dignified. I represented him today and I don't think I withstood the test.

But then again...God may have used me today to open doors and I pray that he did. I pray that others approach me now and that something I say or do as a result of today leads them to Christ.

I pray that those who see nuns as being stereotypically strict can now look upon them and see them as people full of joy and humor. I pray that those who saw me today get the courage to share their own faith with others, even in a silly way just to open up lines of communication.

Today I got to say "God Bless you" to people publicly, and I did so in 2 languages (Dios te bendiga), as one was from El Salvador. And I meant it and trust that God did indeed bless them.

I got to be a public Catholic today.

I hope I remember and find the courage to be a public Catholic every day of my life, instead of "Sister Peter", denying Jesus even as I wear the costume of a beloved spouse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I am 58 and just now feeling called to be a Secular Carmelite. Every one in a while, not often enough, I have the courage to just plain let God show on my sleeve for the world to see. Isn't it really refreshing when someone actually says "God bless you" rather than "Goodbye". You don't even need to me a nun to say it.