Livin’ on a prayer

The nun was angry, that much was obvious. Apparently the free-style prayer service wasn’t sitting right with her for some reason. I happened to be in the back of the auditorium, and even though chairs were available, I just felt like standing by the door. Grades were due. I had a pile of writing portfolios on one side of my desk and a stack of reading journals on the other; all of them begging my perusal and red ink. As soon as it was over, I just wanted to beat the crowd back to the classrooms. She wasn’t happy either, though not because she had anything pending.

The nun was pacing and rigid. She would disappear into the portico and re-materialize in the back of the sanctuary. She kept muttering under her breath how the service was an abomination, disrespectful to God. Later, when she tore the religious director a spiritual new one, the director would defend the service, saying she was hoping to engage the students by making prayer exciting and fun. “Prayer is NOT supposed to be fun,” Sister admonished.

But all that happened later. During the service, I could tell she was agitated. Everyone could tell. She wanted everyone to know. She wanted her feelings to roll through the crowd, a rogue tsunami, until they knocked over the religious director like a stick figure in rough surf.

In my life though, I try to be a peacemaker. I thought, let me try to calm her down, to bring her back to humanity. So I said, “Sister, I was subbing in your classroom the other day, and I noticed a really nice prayer on your desk.”

She stopped swinging her keys and looked at me as if to say, what of it? There had been a nice prayer on her desk, and from the way it read, it seemed to have come from the home office of the religious order the school was founded on. We are supposed to begin each class with prayer, and while I may not always remember to do that, when I do, I always wish I had something a little more flowery.

So I continued, trying to remain steady in the sound of my voice, “Do you get those every day? From…from…the administration or something?”

Like a bear, she grunted affirmatively. So I continued, “….because you know I am always looking for a nice daily prayer to begin my classes and –“

“Buy a book,” she said gruffly, cutting me off.

“Oh,” I swallowed and then floundered. I didn’t know what to say in response to her. And I guess she kind of sensed that, because she backpedaled … though only the slightest bit.

“I can make you a copy,” she said. “I’ll put it in your mailbox every day.”

I thanked her then, and hoping to make a genuine connection, I reached out and squeezed her burly nun shoulder. But she was wearing her beige suit jacket, and all I got was shoulder pad, devoid of life; nothing but thin styrofoam and synthetic fabric.

Anyway, that was ten days ago, and I have yet to see a prayer in my box.

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