Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sister Shirley

I was reading a post Amy Welborn's blog about her son, who deigned to point out the falsehood uttered by another "Catholic" clubber who said he didn't have time to go to church. One of the posters mentioned that taverns are a great place to witness. That reminded me of a sister that my family used to know when we attended St. Aloysius Church in Spokane on occasion.

The interior of St. Aloysius appears to be unchanged since I attended as a child and as a student at Gonzaga University. (I didn't attend very often. That was during the period in which I had fallen away from the Church.)

I recall once that an armed man hid in the church and shot it up a bit, damaging some of the statuary. I used to look around the walls for bullet holes on Sundays.

Sister Shirley must've worked in various ministries or might even have been involved with St. Aloysius school. I wasn't really old enough to catch onto those details (much more into the bullet holes and donuts after Mass), and we weren't regular parishioners. We actually belonged to the parish on Fairchild Air Force Base where we shared the chapels with the Protestants. She wore a veil but otherwise dressed in business attire.

Sister Shirley used to come to our home frequently for dinner, and she even came camping with us on a few occasions. She once told my mother that she disliked restaurants and preferred taverns because you could have a conversation with someone and really witness to them. Restaurants are too busy, and you're constantly being interrupted.

Sister Shirley also loved to tell us stories about the saints. One time in particular, we were camped close to Camp Chinook, a Boy Scout camp on Lake Pend Oreille. The wasps were particularly bad that year and pestered us when we played in the campground. I must've been complaining about the wasps when Sister Shirley heard me. She called me over and told me the story of St. Francis, how Francis loved nature, and how he referred to all creatures as his brothers and sisters.

At seven, I had a very literal sense of faith, so I took her at her word. I started to call the wasps "Brother Wasp" and such. I have to say that it worked rather well for a while. That is until I decided to pet Brother Wasp. Or maybe I was just trying to give him a wet willy. I don't remember, but I'm sure it was typical brother stuff.

Whatever it was, Brere Wasp didn't care for it, and he stung me. And I did exactly what I did when my human brother hit me or pestered me. I ran crying to my mother about how unjust the whole situation was. (Yeah, I was the younger of the two of us. Why do you ask?)

Anyway, I think I learned something about figurative language that day. Thanks, Sister, wherever you are.

**Forgot to mention that Gonzaga U. was Bing Crosby's alma mater. His family home was just a few blocks from campus. Bob Newhart's son was there at the same time I was (1983-84). I think he might've been in one of my literature classes.
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