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 :) )