“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
When I was in about the 4th grade I attended the local parish school. As I remember all of the teachers and the principal were referred to as the“Good Sisters.” I thought it a bit strange that they all had the same name, Good Sister, but I knew that each one also had an individual name so as not to confuse them. They were easily confused in their habits. The only higher authority above the Good Sisters was Mother Superior who on occasion visited my class. At those times we were all on our best behavior and we girls were encouraged to come to school with our hair curled. Even if “God gave you straight hair” as my mother would remind me as I left for school dissatisfied with the outcome of a night’s sleep with my hair rolled in socks. The only person who out-ranked Mother Superior was Father, the pastor of our parish church. When he visited, we were curled, starched, pressed and our shoes shined. For both Mother Superior and Father we stood as tall and straight as any military formation can! We were as proud as proud can be.
The Good Sisters were not only our math, English and history teachers, but the messengers of “Jesus’ own words”. As the Good Sisters were part of a German community and very recently had arrived from Germany, their English grammar and pronunciation left a bit to be desired. But their hearts were in the right place. As many religious of the time they worked sincerely and tirelessly on behalf of us children.
In 4th grade history we learned a bit about the settling of America. We learned about the Al-can-quins (Algonquin) Indians and the Pot-a-mac (Potomac) River. Regardless of what my mother had to say, what Sister said always won out.
On day in religion class, Good Sister said, “Only Catholics go to Heaven.” I remember thinking this over for about 10 seconds and my arm, all on its own, shot up. “Yes Joan,” Good Sister said. In no uncertain terms I said, “I know my mother is going to Heaven.” “Well of course she is,” Good Sister said. “Well my mother is not Catholic.” I said. Good Sister, looking completely confused and bewildered said, “How can she not be Catholic, she is so good?” (My mother quietly and without recompense did all the mending and altering of the Good Sisters’ habits.) I can only hope Good Sister’s world was shaken; her thoughts challenged and maybe even her theological beliefs. Maybe Good Sister said, “How could I have gotten it so wrong?”
Often we messengers also get it wrong. As well-meaning as we are, we still don’t always have it quite right. Scripture is profoundly simple, profoundly challenging, and at times grossly misinterpreted. We can only hope.
“My mother, (my father, my friends and strangers), and my brothers (and sisters) are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
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