My friends are sometimes startled to learn that I spent three years in a Catholic school. A Catholic girls' school. A Catholic girls' boarding school.
I was only twelve when I was deposited with the nuns, in a pre-Vatican II environment of fully habited nuns, Latin masses, saints' days, required daily religion classes, and words like refectory and collation.
It's a long story, one which I won't relate here. But it might reflect a thread of grace, one that began to unwind in the 1890s when my very Methodist great-grandmother drove her buggy ten miles through the country to the convent for piano lessons, and was most recently in evidence when I went to our reunion last Saturday.
As I visited with the hundred or some women there for lunch, reports, hugs, and laughter, I mused on the experiences we had shared, so different from those of most of our contemporaries.
The navy blue skirts, white blouses, and saddle shoes. The little alcoves, beds and side tables lining the length of long, third-floor dormitories and separated from one another by white curtains. The midnight conversations as we curled up in our nightgowns in wide window wells overlooking well-maintained grounds.
The many efforts we made to break into the off-limits cloistered hallways secreted behind closed, unmarked doors. The evening study groups, radios blaring and books strewn across desks as we tried to unravel the mysteries of algebra and dreamed of encounters with Paul McCartney. The Saturday afternoon sewing classes, from which some of us routinely escaped to undisclosed locations.
The alternating mystery and boredom of the Latin mass. The glowing woodwork and high windows and ceilings we took for granted. The very, very distinct personalities of the nuns, brilliant and highly educated women who presumed that we would, too, would grow into forces to be reckoned with.
Thanks to modern technology, we are all re-connected, 30 and 40 and 50 years after we shared convent school life. A couple of the nuns attended my ordination four years ago. They really love us. We really love them.
Real, true, amazing, grace.