I think it is really interesting being a young religious in a church that is aging in the United States. I mean really... I'm the only person at Sunday Mass who doesn't have white hair at this point. I know its different in other areas but where I am the truth is that I'm alone as a young person. Which is why some socially Catholic things - if I might call them that- surprise me all the time! Most often I'm surprised by manners and the generosity of others.
For example, last night I was at a function in the parish hall for a family. Now my superior always worries when I'm out late because the neighborhood is kinda crazy - but I'm in my twenties - I'm kind of fearless. I always say they should be worried about the other guy! So as it hit quarter after 10, I started to say my goodbyes and go back to the convent. Now, I know I shouldn't be surprised by this at all, but one of the dads walked me home. I felt like I was some crippled old nun, haha! However, although it made me feel old which I hate, I liked that someone took the time to make sure that I got home safely. It was a nice gesture. I started thinking about my life before religious life and I don't think there were many men around who thought to care for the safety of a woman going home at night. That's just one example though - when I'm taking the trash out the guys from AA run to the door to grab the bag for me before I step out, parishioners offer me rides when I'm out for a walk, people try to carry my bags for me, when I buy the soda and water the coaches come out from practice and bring it in the convent.
No, I'm not trying to highlight the perks of entering religious life (although it's a great life!) - I'm just surprised coming from our modern culture of equality between the sexes which has resulted in a loss of courteous behavior that some people still do these small acts of kindness. I try all the time to instill in my boys in school those kinds of behaviors but it doesn't come naturally to them. Even though their dads are a good example to them, they think it's old fashioned. It is - but who is to say it's wrong - I say bring it back! They are just getting the hang of it and they love to be complimented when they do the right thing. Unfortunately, they now fight over holding the doors for me - but they'll stop beating each other up eventually... maybe when they are 30...40??.
Then there is the generosity of others. I have had a tough week as far as generosity goes. A priest I know gave me twenty dollars for helping him with something - I felt terrible and I tried to tell him I didn't need any money - but he made me take it. So, I thought, I'll use this for the fundraiser the parish is having so it will go to charity. When I got to the parish event - someone else paid for my ticket. Then people paid for tickets to put my name in the raffle drawings. So not only had I not given my charitable offering - I had actually gained in winnings.
What's a nun to do when she can't get rid of money?? I have a few other ideas but I'm hoping I don't get foiled... one of them is a nice treat for the kids. We'll see if they deserve it after these last days of school, haha. Either way - here I am - stuck between these two foreign cultures coexisting. Sometimes, like today, they bang together. I was at Walmart and I was standing in line watching the cashier watching me. He was young and I saw him staring at me while he was ringing up the customer in front of me. When he rang up my purchase he gave me my receipt and change and patted my hand and said, "God bless you, Sister." Then he turned his light off for his break and offered to take my one bag to the car for me - on his break. I talked him out of it but it was unbelievable. Men never treated me so nicely when I was available and now that I'm not I'm continually surprised. I think there is merit in religious life just for the culture and for society in general. It isn't about me but somehow a religious inspires thoughtfulness and generosity and I think the visibility of religious is a leaven for a society which is becoming increasingly self-centered.
So there you have it, generosity and gentlemen in religious life. I hope they are trends that continue!