Since this is the appropriate category for lighter elements regarding Catholicism, I thought I would initiate a thread for any who might like to share reminiscences of one’s parochial school days; in the spirit of the hilarious book, Once a Catholic, by Robert Byrne. Here is my offering from my personal website.
In my story (and elsewhere), I make no bones about how I feel about some of the nuns who had taught me as a child in parochial school, especially one in particular. I think the problem during that era was that many nuns had been pushed into the convent by their families during the depression, their marital prospects having seemed bleak. Thus, many were terribly unhappy in their highly regimented lives and took out their bitterness on their hapless charges. I had been “Sister Mary Peter’s” designated whipping boy that particular year. I’m sure there had been others before and afterwards.
However, it is indeed most unfair to paint with a broad brush when recounting the past. There were indeed many nuns with true vocations and who well understood what the Lord meant when He had stated: “Suffer the little children….” There were many kind nuns and others who were tough but fair and didn’t have picks on certain, usually weaker kids. Such nuns had my utmost respect, even when I had gotten quite justly whacked for some offense or other.
My first brush with “the system” came when I had been in second grade. I was busted for the horrendous offense of gazing out the window while the nun had been droning on about whatever it was she had been droning on about. In truth, such was my usual ADHD (as I would later come to realize) state of affairs. I was ordered to report from the new school building (where the younger grades were held) to the old school building, which housed all the “big kids" and to which I had never been before, for detention later that afternoon.
My pleas for mercy having been to no avail, I dutifully and forebodingly walked, in my typically disheveled appearance—my shirttail hanging out, necktie askew and shoelaces untied—, after school to detention. I somehow managed to find the classroom which housed the after school juvenile desperados and meekly entered, presenting myself to an elderly, kindly looking nun as this towheaded, angelic-looking seven-year-old runt amongst the school’s towering, recidivist criminal element caught fighting or smoking.
“What do you want?” she asked, seemingly somewhat perplexed.
“S’ter told me I had to come to ‘tention, s’ter,” I explained.
“Well, what on Earth did you do, young man?” she inquired.
“I was lookin’ out the window, s’ter.”
Although I didn’t understand why then, instead of answering, sister seemed to bite her lip very hard and merely pointed to an empty chair, which I dutifully plopped in, before the nun abruptly exited the room for the hallway. Despite having closed the door behind her, I was as perplexed as the rest of the detention room inmates as to the source of and reason for the raucous laughter we all could hear emanating from the hallway.
After a few minutes, sister, apparently having collected herself, returned and cocked her finger at me and inquired, “Well, have you learned your lesson?”
“Oh, yes, s’ter!” I assured her.
She generously granted me an early parole, bidding me a fair adieu as I walked home, a thoroughly rehabilitated, window gazing miscreant.