Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coming Soon

I'm working on a follow up that chronicles the events of the St Patrick's Day celebration 10 months after Sister Mary Bernadette's Death.
The Tentative working Title is:

"The Miracle of the Green Boogers." I think you will like it!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I believe I can fly

"I can, can't I?"

"Of course you can, all you have to do is believe."

14 year old Sandra Cassidy grinned evilly as she coaxed her 7 year old brother Charlie out onto the roof of their home.

Since her parents had adopted Charlie 5 years before, she had seen her place as the focus of her parents attention deteriote rapidly, and Sandy resented it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Death of Sister Mary Bernadette O.S.F.

This is not a true story. It is based on some real events, with embellishments, and all names were changed to protect the guilty. I hope God remembers that when I try and get in heaven someday, but I'm not counting on it.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus Ohio owns several hundred acres of land 20 miles south of the city, on the west side of U.S. Route 23, about a mile south of a harness racing facility. That farmland, which was consecrated more than a century before by a now long dead Bishop, was established as a cemetery for those belonging of the faith. On its far southwest corner, hidden from the highway, a grotto in reverence to the virgin mother Mary was built. Surrounding that grotto, the land was reserved for the burial of the Lord's most faithful servants in the vein of Mary Magdalene and Mother Teresa of Calcutta herself, those women who had dedicated their lives to God's service. The grotto was surrounded by the graves of Sister's from various orders, grouped together by their devotions. Yet, at the farthest boundary, there sits a lone marker, far removed from all the others, a single grave, barely noticed, that acts inadvertently as a marker at the split in the road.
It is the grave of Sister Mary Bernadette Aloysius, O.S.F. (Order of St. Francis) and it reads: Born May 9th, 1909, Born into Eternal Life, May 9, 1969. This is the story of her last day on earth.

Sammy "Snigger" Zagg and Charles "Cowboy" Cassidy had eaten their bag lunch and were out on the playground awaiting the rest of their 4th grade classmates. The sooner enough guys got out, the sooner they could start their daily tag football game. Lunch ended 15 minutes earlier during May schooldays, because at our Lady of Perpetual Corporal Punishment,(Referred to by alumnae as Our Lady of PCP) the entire Student Body was marched to the small grotto honoring St. Mary behind the Church and were lead in reciting the Rosary by the 8th graders. Snigger and Cowboy, who were going on to the 5th grade next year, (barring some unseen calamity) had only that very morning finished their altar boy training, much to the amazement of Sister Mary Bernadette, the School principal. They had been given their schedules for the summer, and were quite happy to see that they would be serving the 6 AM mass together for a full week in Late July.

"You know 'ol Mighty Butt will be watching us, if we sneeze during Mass, she'll give us a bruisin," Snigger told Cowboy. Cowboy nodded in agreement, all the while tossing the football to himself. They sat on the recently painted black wrought iron steps that came down from the adjoining 7th and 8th grade classrooms, the two boys watching keenly for any Nun to come along and shoo them away.

Principal Mary Bernadette, aka "Mighty Butt" was as much a nemesis to them as they were to her. No two students in the History of our Lady of PCP had aggravated sister Mary Bernadette with their antics as young Zagg and Cassidy.
The blonde haired, chunky Cassidy and skinny, dark mopped Zagg were like gasoline and fire in Sister Mary Bernadette's eyes, but despite her stern and many admonishments of them, secretly she held them dear in her heart. If any two young men needed a good Catholic education and accompanying discipline, it was these two, she had reasoned. The week before, the two had conspired to move the classroom clock forward 20 minutes while she was in her office and leave detention early. They had almost gotten away with it. If she hadn't checked her watch, they would have. She had called their respective Mother's almost reluctantly, and found herself smiling as she had hung up the phone.

What she couldn't suffer though, was the disrespectful nickname that one of them, she didn't know which, but suspected the bookworm, Cassidy, had burdened her with. Sister Mighty Butt.

On the first day of the new School year, as they had entered the school for the first time, Cassidy had looked up at the new placards on the wall on the entrance. "Sister M.B. Aloysius Principal." It was her first day as head at Our Lady of PCP, and from the top of the steps she heard an unidentifiable voice cry out, not too loudly, but not quietly, "What do you think M B stands for, Mighty Butt?" Her face had reddened in anger, but she had kept her composure, smiling in return as the two suspects had paced grinning past. I'll give you something to grin about, she had thought, but then she asked God for forgiveness and pledged a Rosary that night for such thoughts, even while daydreaming of using the 2 foot long, 6" wide spanking board on their backsides. Shortly after Christmas someone would use a Magic Marker to write "Mighty Butt's Best Buddy" on the paddle, that had been presented to the school's first principal in September of 1922, almost 47 years before, on the day the school had first opened. Defacing "old reliable" was just one of many crimes she suspected the two 4th graders of culpability.

Mary Bernadette did have a weakness for sweets, and her rear did protrude somewhat emphatically. The aisles of the classroom were not quite that wide, and when she attempted to walk through them to speak to a class, the furniture did tend to give way, especially in the lower grades, where the children were lighter. It had gotten to the point that she had quietly directed the other Sister's and few Lay teachers to keep an extra wide middle aisle, to save her future embarrassment.

It was Friday, and two days hence was Mother's Day. As Sister Mary Bernadette roamed the Parish grounds, she noted the flowers, the smells of spring, and as she walked past the grotto of Mary, that someone had posted a note on the statue.

What was this? She rushed to the statue and her jaw dropped. "Kiss me, I'm Irish!" read the note. Not only that, but someone had applied a large helping of what was obviously obscene amounts of bright red lipstick to the statue's lips, along with accompanying eyeliner and make up! Sister Mary Bernadette was besides herself with rage. She turned and hurriedly made a beeline back to the school. She would call an immediate assembly and the perpetrators exposed!

There would be no mercy! Someone would talk, or the whole school would have detention! Her overburdened heart pounded in her chest as she marched across the playground children from the lower three grades scattering in her wake. Snigger and Cowboy watched as she marched by oblivious towards them.

"Wow, the ol' penguin's really sweating, You think she saw what the 8th grade girls did to the virgin mom?" Snigger asked Cowboy. "Nah, I think she found out about the surprise Birthday Party. I heard my Mom telling my Dad about it last night. The Bishop's coming and everything. She's been a Nun for 35 years. my Dad said that's a long time to go without sex. That's why Nun's are so mean, they can't have any sex."

"Your dad talks about sex? out loud?"

"Yeah, all the time, but Mom shushes him."

"You're Lucky, My Dad won't talk about it, and my Mom complains because he won't do it."

"Maybe we could trade Dads for a week?"

"Nah, your Dad drinks, and my Mom wouldn't like it.

"Yeah, but she'd get what she wants, and wouldn't be complaining all the time." The boys stopped talking as Sister Mary Bernadette passed by.

Meanwhile up in the Teacher's lounge, Sister's Angelica and Josephine, two of the younger (under 40) nuns, were hurriedly trying to decorate in honor of their principal. Angelica saw Mary Bernadette crossing the schoolyard, and gave out a cry."Oh no, she's coming back, how are we going to keep her out of here?"
Josephine climbed down from the ladder, and made for the door. "You keep at it, I know just what to do."

Mary Bernadette was breathing heavily as she reached her office door, she was about to grab the large hand held assembly bell when Sister Josephine intercepted her. "Sister Mary, I have something important to tell you!"
Mary Bernadette stopped, grateful for the opportunity to catch her breath. Her stomach was churning, and her bowels aching. Those apricot and blueberry muffins that Sister Margaret had baked for Breakfast had been delicious, but she regretted not stopping at two. On top of the bowl of Maple and Brown Sugar oatmeal, she should have known this would happen.
Josephine sighed, then looked her friend and mentor right in the face with a large smile.
"Sister, The Bishop is coming to honor you today, it's supposed to be a surprise but.."
Josephine could tell, by the look of terror in Mary Bernadette's face, that the impending arrival of the Bishop was not welcome news.

"Sister, what's wrong, you seem distraught, I..'

Mary Bernadette took a deep breath. "Someone has defiled the statue of the Virgin Mary in the grotto with makeup. We must clean it up before he arrives. Can you take care of that?"

Josephine gasped. "Of course Sister. How awful this happened on today of all days. "She saw Bernadette struggling to breath, and her face was turning pale.

"Are you all right, Sister?" Josephine was growing concerned, but Mary Bernadette waived her off. "I'll be all right once I use the facilities. My Blood Pressure always gets up a bit when I have to go. I'll be out in a few minutes. Thank you Sister, for taking the Virgin Mary off my mind, I know I can trust in you to remedy it."

"You're welcome," Josephine whispered, as Mary Bernadette made her way into her office, and closed the door to her private washroom behind her.

Josephine quickly enlisted two 7th grade girls on lunch room duty to assist her in cleaning up the Virgin Mary. Using Spray cleaner and paper towels, they were able to remove the offensive make up, with 15 minutes to spare before the Bishop arrived.

At 12: 15 Sister Mary Bernadette did not come out and ring the bell for assembly. the Children kept playing. The Staff figured she had made one of her arbitrary decisions to let recess go until 12:30, but by 12:40, Sister Josephine knew something had to be amiss. Was Sister Mary Bernadette that sensitive about her weight and her age? Sister Angelica took charge, clapped her hands, and summoned an assembly. There were murmurs of uncertainty from the student body, but they followed routine and marched to the grotto, where his eminence the Bishop lead them in today's Rosary and prayer. Sister Josephine took it upon herself to approach Mary Bernadette. She went to the Principal's office and knocked gently on the washroom door.

"Sister? Mary? It's me Josie. what's going on?"

The quiet was unsettling. There should be some sound, Josephine thought. Mary Bernadette snored something awful when she slept, if she had fallen asleep, then she should be hearing that she thought, but she wasn't even hearing ...breathing.

Josephine turned the knob, and pushed the door open. What she saw brought tears to her eyes. Seated on the Toilet, her skirt pulled up, her mouth agape, leaning back, Sister Mary Bernadette sat upon the toilet of her private washroom, having passed into the Lords waiting arms. Her sightless eyes were wide open, as if gazing in wonder at sights yet unseen by the living.

An ambulance was called, but this was in the days before paramedics, and they refused to take her, as she was, as the attendant stated, 'dead as a doornail." Cowboy Cassidy's Mom, who had served as a U S Army triage nurse in a MASH unit in Korea, was summoned from her home only 6 houses away, and had quickly made her assessment. "She's gone." The Bishop himself gave Sister Mary Bernadette her last rites, sending her earthly body off in style.

The entire student body stood quietly as the ambulance attendants carried the black bagged body of Sister Mary Bernadette to their vehicle and carefully loaded it. There was a river of tears as the news had spread and all the teachers were caught up in the moment, some openly sobbing. Snigger elbowed Cowboy in the ribs. "Boy I hope this isn't because I prayed so hard for a new Principal!"

Every Altar Boy in the Parish served her Funeral Mass, and the Bishop himself requested Cowboy and Snigger as his Altar servers, having heard tales from the staff of how they had livened up Sister Mary Bernadette's life with their activities.

Sister Mary Bernadette must have been smiling down from heaven that morning, as the two boys were flawless in the performance of their duties, and the Bishop invited them to serve Mass for him at the Cathedral, anytime.

When it came time for her burial, that is when the trouble started. The Order of St. Francis couldn't bury anyone else in their own cemetery at the College they had founded nearby. So they asked the diocese if they could inter her at the new cemetery south of the city. That would be fine, was the reply. Unfortunately, neither the Sister of Mount Carmel (The Carmelites) or the Sisters of Jesus (S. O. J.) wanted a non member of their order in their reserved spots. So Sister Mary Bernadette ended up in a far, unclaimed, unreserved corner of the cemetery, all by herself. Or, as Cowboy and Snigger decided more than 30 years later, "So she wouldn't have to worry about her Butt banging into anybody if she decides to get up and walk down the aisle."