Monday, September 15, 2008

Religious heritage can be habit forming

When I was in Catholic high school, all those masses and rosaries during the week left me on spiritual overload. Now, the 9-5 workweek has me eager for some church time on the weekends. I don't even mind extra church services, like confession at the cathedral.

This week's Catholic field trip was to St. George's parish convent, the home of the new Daughters of Mary, Israel's hope. Our presence there was an exercise in Degrees of Separation.
  • The VSC used to use the convent as their residence until 2 years ago. When they left, there were only 3 people living in an enormous building that can house 22. Good thing we left - that would have been creepy. Also, St. George is even farther from the city than we are now.
  • Jessica found out about the convent open house via Catholic Radio, which is run by Catholic Answers. I used to be a total Catholic Answers junkie, reading their magazine This Rock *ahem* religiously.
  • Daughters of Mary are the project of Catholic Answers celebrity Rosalind Moss. Her claim to fame is that she was born a Jew, spent several years as an Evangelical Christian, and now is Catholic. Jessica is a revert to the Church, and I am ethnically what I like to call 1/4 Jew, 3/4 shiksa. (Harrison Ford's a quarter Jewish, not too shabby.)
Sr. Rosalind and company's open house was preceded by a holy hour. Back in the high school days, I did one of those silent Eucharistic prayer times once a month. It's been a while, but all those lovely rituals are deep in my soul. I could say the Benediction hymns and prayers half-asleep. In fact, O Salutaris is one of the few songs where my voice sounds really good. I was pleased that I could help walk Texas Volunteer through it, showing her where to find lyrics in the hymnal. And then I realized: I want my future children to be able to sing these songs. I want to drag them to Eucharistic adoration, even if they get as bored as I used to. I want them to attend so many church services that sacred words are automatic reflexes for them.

Did my parents think the same thing before they had me? There are many aspects of their Catholic upbringing that I missed, like schoolteaching nuns in habits. Seriously, the first real nun I met in person was at Fr. Paul's first mass my freshman year of high school. Here in St. Louis I have increased my Sister acquaintance about 2000%. And I am not completely sold on the full habit thing - it seems a little anachronistic. Long skirts and wimples are no longer solidarity with the simple folk, they're an old fashioned costume. Modified habits - the blue suits with optional veil, etc. seem more practical and less sappily nostalgic. Mother Teresa was on the cutting edge when she went with white saris for her Indian sisters.

Ironically, here I was at a party for a fledgling order that prides itself on the full-on habits they will wear in the future. Their mission is evangelization, which apparently will take the form of walking the streets in full habit, distributing religious articles. Simple? Old fashioned? Maybe, but people seem to love it. There are hundreds of inquiries already from women interested in joining. The two sisters already enrolled had dozens of stories about people thanking them for their courage to display their religious identity in public. One old man kissed their hands in the grocery store, asking "Where have you been?!"

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