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Time Out: A reflection

July 12, 2009
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When I was in first grade, my religious education teacher was Sr. Mary Amabilis, a Sister of Mercy.  It was called “CCD” then, and it was for us public school Catholic kids.

One day, she asked me to see her for a minute and waited for everyone to leave.  She praised me for speaking up, but asked me to wait so that other children in the class could say something.    I can still remember being a bit shaken, how I didn’t know I did anything wrong and wanted to do better.

She waited and I waited, in class.   Sometimes she asked me if I knew the answer, when everyone was silent, and I whispered a reply, because I knew.   (My mom was constantly teaching me, and I was soaking it up.)

Sr. Mary Amabilis was my second grade CCD teacher too.  First Communion.

The year after the Jesuit abuser called me out of the blue, weeping,  and said he was evil, that I was good and good attracts evil, my mother started calling me.  Neither of us likes phones.

She’d say, “Sr. Amabilis told me to call you and tell you she is praying for you.”     This was the nun I hadn’t even seen since second grade.   Next few times she’d say the same thing.   Eventually, she’d say “Sr. Amabilis told me to call you and tell you she is praying for you.   What is going on?”    Then she’d say,   “Sr. Amabilis told me to call you and tell you she is praying for you.  Why won’t you tell me what is going on?”

It was a bad year, the year after the perp called and apologized — a bad year in a different zone.  I mean good things happened, but it’s a zone that you don’t want to be in if you can help it, at 22.    And how did Sr. Amabilis know anything, when it happened in Italy and I never saw her after second grade?  What did she know?

One night I had a really bad but active dream (unlike me, since I usually don’t remember dreams), and I woke up with this strong compulsion/belief that I was about to go stick a knife in my gut.   I knew enough to know it was a bad dream.   But I was curious, and I …… made my way downstairs, and there was a large carving knife I had never seen before, on the telephone table in the kitchen hallway.    I went back upstairs.

I was living in a retreat house in the inner city in a poor city on the East coast.    It was called the “Urban Retreat House”.   I had taken a job in a soup kitchen that I learned about in the National Catholic Reporter, and the staff there told me I might like to live at the Urban Retreat House.    I lived with 3 nuns, a Maryknoll priest on sabbatical, a United Church of Christ minister (going through a painful divorce), three young men from Central America, and two recent college grads like me.   (The Jesuit who founded it had just left after a young man at the county jail said the Jesuit touched his genitals).

A couple hours later, I went back downstairs, and Stan, the Maryknoll priest, was in the kitchen.  After about five minutes of holding back, I asked Stan if he had seen a knife.  He said yes, there was a big knife, he saw it last night, and he didn’t know where it went.   I sighed, because I wasn’t crazy.  I told him about my dream.

Then my mother called.  “Sr. Amabilis told me to tell you she is praying for you.   Why is she praying for you?   She’s not a foolish woman.  What is going on?”

A month later, after other silly things, the Maryknoll priest talked about my hands.  We were in the kitchen.   He talked to my back.   “You have the hands of a healer.   You will be a healer some day…..”    I turned and glared at him, angry.    That Jesuit perp had liked my hands too.   “…. if you want to be.”

That night I asked God if this cancels out that, if “hands of a healer” makes up for hands a perp likes.   I was spitting mad.

Then my mother called.  “Sr. Amabilis told me to call you to tell you she is praying for you.  WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON?”  I did what I always did, and said geesh, Mom, I don’t know.

Next time I went home, my mother told me, “Sr. Amabilis told me to give this to you.  She has nothing.  This was one thing she had, and she told me she wanted you to have it.   She wants you to have something of hers.   You really ought to go over there and thank her.”   It was a small figurine made out of seashells.  Sr. Amabilis was in her 80’s, an invalid.

I moved for school and other work, and the day after my first meeting with a very trustworthy guide, I had a sudden awareness that Sr. Amabilis had died.  And then the little shell figurine — on the other side of the room —  tipped over and I burst out laughing and laughing (because it was the stupid thing I read about once).  My mother called that night and told me Sr. Amabilis died…. and I said “I know.”   Sr. Amabilis was in my heart, and I was in hers.

I’m just mentioning this because God/people take care of me, though it hasn’t been like the early years in a very long time.   I didn’t want to leave that out.    If I’m going to write about this journey, I have to include other people.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. vsptruthteller permalink*
    July 14, 2009 2:09 pm

    P.S. Stan told the nuns about the knife dream — and all three came to see me (three people who didn’t agree on anything!).

    They said they hadn’t thought to tell me something that happened before I arrived. They had given shelter to a woman fleeing a violent relationship. One night, the oldest nun couldn’t sleep and was walking back to her room when she sensed something wrong. She looked into a room — the room I later moved into — and saw two eyes peering at her over a chair. She let out a blood curling scream, and a man came running out of the room, dropping a machete on the floor when he ran out of the house.

    The nun in charge said they thought I should have a different room now, and I was puzzled. “Why?” They explained….. that man, a knife, your dream…

    And I guess it was the public school kid/future lawyer in me that said, “Didn’t everything turn out right?”

    Didn’t change rooms.

    I loved that house and its people.

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