This weekend I celebrated a milestone—50 years as a Benedictine Sister of Erie. It was a weekend of celebration with family and friends, many whom I hadn’t seen in years.
It also provided opportunity for me to look over my life and be forced to my knees in a prayer of gratitude.
When I was in high school I wrote a short story around the parable of “The Lost Sheep.”
It took place in a Catholic girls high school and the main character, a sophomore, was cleaning out her locker because she had been expelled for stealing. Alone in the hall, she realizes that the door to one of the classroom is open. It’s a religion class and she overhears the teacher, a sister, reading the parable of the lost sheep to the students and explaining how God never gives up on anyone--that God searches out the lost and wounded, gathers them in loving arms and all of heaven rejoices.
The young girl begins to weep.
The last line of the short story reads: “She emptied all her stuff in her school bag
and slammed the locker shut, the clang echoing in the empty hall. Perhaps because of the noise, the nun teaching the religion class reached out her arm and
closed the classroom door with a heavy and final thud.”
Of course, when I was a sophomore I was almost expelled from high school for shoplifting so I had a direct inspiration for this short story.
Needless to say, the good sisters of Saint Benedict did not expel me. Like the shepherd in the parable, they sought out what was lost and led me home. The result was that at a very impressionable age I knew that I was saved by love, by unearned love, by an undeserving second chance.
It wasn’t the first time. Certainly not the last, but it marked me for life.
One would hope this overflowing love tendered me, softened me, toward the lost. Or, at the very least, made me responsible for the lost--what I had been given I needed to return. One would hope….
It was this memory and so many more examples of unearned love that I have experienced from the Benedictine Sisters of Erie for over 50 years that I celebrated with a deep prayer of thanksgiving.