Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sr. Mary and Creation

As a kid I would be taken to church every Sunday for Mass. This was something you did back then without fail. In fact I could never imagine missing Sunday Mass. It was a big no-no though I didn’t know why. At Church, I sat and fidgeted and turned back to look at the faces of people and yawned. I just could not relate to the service, as I didn’t understand it. And 45 minutes was too long for someone like me to sit through. Sometimes I fell asleep, as the atmosphere in the Church is so peaceful and the droning of the prayers made your lids droop. This continued for some time and by the time I was 8 or 9 I resented going for Mass. But there was no escape ...this was something you did like taking your meds and shots and doing your homework.

Around the 9th year of my life an angel in the form of an Irish nun entered my life. Or I should say flitted into my life. And life was never the same again. She was slim and sprightly with warm blue eyes that twinkled and you felt that you could look into her soul through those eyes. She was the kind of person you would instantly like. She was put incharge of my class as our spiritual guide and mentor. Something must have been wrong with us for the Principal to transfer her from catechism classes for the senior girls to us lowly 3rd year primies.

To begin with we were the most talkative class in the history of the school ( or so the nuns and teachers told us). This was noticed in Nursery itself. It is funny how some classes in schools get the naughtiest or quietest or most talkative kids. It’s like the stars or some unforeseen force connive to bring children of similar traits together. When my brother M joined school his class was the naughtiest and also the cleverest group of boys who had come together in a long time. They drove the teachers up the wall, but they are still remembered affectionately by the faculty for their innocent goofiness.

Sr. Mary was a non-conventional kind of Nun. She is one Nun who would perhaps have been ex communicated from the Church if the Vatican only knew what she taught the young girls in her charge. Before she took charge of our class for Catechism and Retreats, I think her predecessor had briefed her about the little horrors that she would be teaching, the word of God.

The first day of class, she asked us some questions about God. We gave some lack luster answers. She smiled and didn’t say anything. After the initial introduction she took us out of the classroom. My school is situated amidst acres of greenery in the heart of Bangalore. If I were to look up at the tree canopy during assembly, I could spot at least 7 varieties of birds. (and that’s what I did during assembly most of the time). Sometimes during assembly the Parrots would make so much noise (they still do) that Sister would stop the prayers and say over the mike “I think God doesn’t like our prayers. That’s why he using the Parrots to stop us from mouthing insincere prayers.” The assemblage would laugh.

Sister Mary made all of us pick up a leaf. And then she asked us why the leaf was shaped the way it was. None of us had an answer. She then proceeded to give us our very first catechism class under the old Tamarind tree that I swear was an air conditioner in the guise of a tree. She told us the reason for the shape of the leaf . As she talked I realized that there was an order around us, a reason for everything. There was a carefully thought and put together plan that ran the giant recycling plant caled Earth.

The class listened spellbound. How could a lowly leaf contribute to the very existence of life on Earth? Suddenly God became more than just an English word. He became a reality. We were confronted with the fact there indeed was a Creator behind everything on Earth and the heavens (even though he was invisible). There was a visible sign of the Creator everywhere. In the leaf of grass, the flowers, the pattern of seeding, flowering, wilting, the seasons, the years, the rotation of the planets…..

This class also generated an interest in biology in me. Things I never noticed before were now objects of interest. And the more I read the more I was vowed by God’s Creation…it’s intricacy, it’s scope, complexity and the SHEER ORDER in its sheer vastness. I was overawed. I developed an intense liking for Biology and it led me on a voyage of discovery and a better understanding of the working of the Universe at a macro level.

Today when I look at a lowly leaf I realize how great God is. And I marvel at His Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence. And all because of that one lesson Sr Mary took under the tamarind tree many years ago.

(Sr Mary died in Ireland a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 85. To be continued some day when I can get over the senti, whenever I think of her :) )


Alexis Leon said...

What a beautiful way to teach? If we had more teachers like Sr. Mary, many of us would have been wiser. You were really lucky to have a teacher like her. She must have touched many many lives with her special way of teaching and guidance. May her soul rest in peace…

Mind Curry said...

very nice silverine..awesome stuff..its funny how some things in life influence us so much and our entire life.

i also truly believe in one God and his omnipresence. its just beautiful. sometimes all i need is to look up in the sky and see those stars..sometimes just some flowers..or a bird..

you have captured the feeling so well.

shruti said...

very nice .. Reading ur blog made em yearn to be present there... being taught catchism etc ( I now wish I knew what that is about ) . Hmm some people are greater souls and that eminates in their personality and teachings and so can leave a mark . Its is only with luck that u get to meet such people and learn from them .
Being spiritually inclined
( not religious ) I am hungry for any kind of knowledge associated wit God . The power I truely believe in and a presence i have felt beside me in the toughest times of my life .

hope and love said...

beautiful post..
faith gives you a lot of strength.. i really believe that i can do anything thru God who strengthens me..
hmmm.. but spirituality is rarely taught the was sr.mary taught you.. you should read the catichism books my boys have.. it is very vague and unintresting ..

silverine said...

Alexis: I am acutely aware of her enormous contribution in making me what I am and thousands of girls before me and after me too. She was a marvel and another proof of the existence of God. Only a God could have made someone so beautiful like Sr Mary. She made Catechism come alive and the most looked forward to class :)

Mind Curry: Thank you :) People like her are the true educators. The fertile minds of the young should be nurtured by gifted people like her and I was so lucky. From the simple example of the leaf she took us to more complex issues as the years passed. We would even sit and discuss Catechism classes during breaks. Such was the animation she aroused in our minds :)

Shruthi: I am also spiritually inclined..and religious too.I follow religion in the conventional way like going to Church etc. but hope with a lot more meaning. I understand your yearning because I have been there, but then Sr Mary made sure that all of us learnt to stand on our own two feet spiritually by the time school was done :)

HnL: I feel sad for your boys. Religion if taught properly in letter and spirit can go a long way in shaping young lives. Catechism has to be interactive and practical and not a boring classroom subject.

mathew said...

yeah..but there are times when u get ocassionally disillusioned with god..when things dont go your way..Like some atheist say "God was invented to give mankind hope"..
I have bouts of disenchanment and am sure most of us go through such a phase some time or the other.

But then religion is about following your consience!!!!!Its not about what the preist preaches..

P.S..not related to your post..just sharing thoughts!!

aks said...

hey sil...beautiful post...there are certain people who influence our life in such a way that we discover a whole new dimension to it....u were lucky to have such a person in the form of a teacher.....

silverine said...

Mathew: Like some atheist say "God was invented to give mankind hope".. Well.. to each his own...
About disillusionment, all I can say that life on Earth is no party, but God gives you the resources to make the best of it or vice versa depending on what you choose.It is entirely upto you.
"Its not about what the priest preaches.." Forget the priests and the clergy, they are not the church, you and me are.I go to church to pray and not listen to preachers and priests.
Just my thoughts too :)

Aks: Thanks dear, you are right. Teachers play such a big role in our lives, in fact I always wanted to right about my teachers. I was lucky to have some real good ones :)

shruti said...

"I have bouts of disenchanment and am sure most of us go through such a phase some time or the other."

This is GOd's way of teaching us is these times that u leanr the most ..because u have to flow against the tide.. it is very easy to go with the effors required ..its his way of loving us..and letting us free.. and only when he feels we are capable enough to face it does he leave our hands ..and let us walk but he is always there beside us ..concerend that we may fall in our next step ..ready to give support at the slightest hint ..

silverine said...

Shruti: That is so true..well said gal, you are amazing!!!

Thanu said...

I was just telling my sister the other day, when we were kids my parents made us attend Sunday school and now we both feel so much better that they made us.

We would say none of our friends have school on Sunday y should we go?

silverine said...

Thanu: I am eternally grateful to my Mom for dragging me to Church. I realise it wasn't just an exercise for her. After Sr Mary came into my life I started going to Church because I wanted to and not because the rules sayz that you must!! You and me have a lot to thank our parents for( and I sincerely hope my mom doesnt read this!!!)


Jiby said...

hey, beautiful post...the wonders a great teacher can do to a child. i got a call last week from my kindergarten teacher and even after 20 years, and hundreds of students passing under her shade, she told me many anecdotes of my cheythikal i had the end of the call i made a mental note to go meet her next time i am in kerala.

i wonder why i cant still summon the inspiration to write a post on the great priest who shaped me and my friends at school...maybe i dont deserve that distinction yet. sr.mary sure will be smiling down at u reading this.

shruti said...

Reading all the comments and especially ur post has made me feel the lack of any formal spiritual education in my life... or guidance .. maybe I would have been far more wiser ...I can feel the pinch of missing all those years of learning ..

Paresh Palicha said...

I’ve heard that the difference between Rama & Ravana was that that Rama had a wise Guru to guide him at every juncture of his life & Ravana was a self taught man. They were both equal in every other aspect.

This thought has remained with me since childhood. It is very important for us have good teachers around us who can teach us humility & to respect the power of the Supreme. Otherwise, we all may become control freaks & megalomaniacs.

You were very lucky to have Sr. Mary.

silverine said...

Jiby: My KG teacher too remembers me, in fact she lives close by :) I am still waiting for your post on Fr Pulickal, but write it when the inspiration strikes you. That will be one amazing post!!!
Sr Mary surely must be smiling because all her girls turned out alright :)

..except me :P rofl

Shruthi: I understand what you are trying to say, a mentor makes all the difference!!

Paresh: Very true, in fact I admire Ravan for not touching Sita without her consent..that was so gentleman like!!!
"It is very important for us have good teachers around us who can teach us humility & to respect the power of the Supreme. Otherwise, we all may become control freaks & megalomaniacs"

Very very true!!

lovemarks said...

What a wonderful teacher! She just weaved herself and her beliefs so were really lucky!:)

usha said...

Interestingly, when we look back, the most memorable teachers are the ones who've made their marks in our lives and sown the seeds of a different thought and induced a certain way of living our lives.
True, there were brilliant Mathematics / Electronics teachers at school. But still, it's always the teachers who taught us about life and the different prespectives, who are the most cherished.. along with the invaluable lessons they taught us.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

God is what happened since you weren't taught the theory of evolution :)