Over the past week or so, social media has been filled up with messages, photos and videos all saying the same message telling us about how terrible 2016 has been. Most of which, unfortunately, is true.
So, I’m going to use the best of my abilities and do what I do best: talking about something completely irrelevant in the hope of cheering someone up. Usually in the form of a story and in this case, a true one.
A story about nuns
Flashback to 2005. A joint Catholic and Church of England secondary school. Myself a young, fifteen-year-old bored boy enduring the routinely ‘Act of Worship.’ Depending on what side of the Christianity scales you were brought up on.
Before we get into this, I’d like to say that I was a pretty well behaved boy in school. The worst thing’s I did were skiving Physical Education and being caught swearing loudly. Okay? Okay. Let’s continue.
As is tradition and being brought up Catholic, we line up to receive the body and blood of Christ. I only ever took the bread as I find that easy to identify as what it is: a thin, sticky wafer. Whereas red wine is a little harder to distance the connection from them calling it blood, which weirds me out a bit.
So, I line up with my fellow Catholics to receive said bread from the school nun. For those unfamiliar, in communion you can choose to put your hands out in front of yourself so they place it in your hand along with your humility to feed yourself. Otherwise, you place your hands on your chest and open your mouth. Anyway, I took the bread with my hands and sat back in my seat, waiting for the thin wafer to dissolve on my tongue like normal.
And this is where things began to spiral.
Because the bread didn’t dissolve like normal. It decided to dry up every drop of saliva I had and stick to the roof of my mouth like superglue.
In my ascending panic, I started to cough and splutter a little bit and make unflattering faces as attempted to peel the disc of cardboard off the roof of my mouth with my tongue. I alerted my friends next to me by pointing to my extremely animated and concerned face to which of course, naturally, they came to the rescue like good friends by pointing and laughing. Which deep down I totally expected.
Anyway, it turned out I was lucky enough to live another day as I eventually scraped the bread off my mouth and avoided choking to death.
And so, the service ended. But instead of simply standing from my seat and heading to my next class, the nun appeared- not approached – appeared next to me with a face of thunder somewhere in her generously sized black void of a body.
“I am disgusted.” she spat.
“In all my life as a sister I have never…” (I won’t bore you with her life story.)
Completely bewildered, I just sat there blinking repeating the same question.
“But what did I do?”
To which the nun shook her head vigorously, jowls shaking.
“Oh you know full well what you’ve done! I can’t even speak to you. You will speak to Father McFatherson.” (Probably best I don’t use real names.)
So, I did what I had always naively done at school: Do as I was told.
Entering Father McFatherson’s…office? I’m not really sure what it was but he had his own room. And empty room, with not a lot of things. I entered the room without a slither of a complaint as my friends cackled behind me, leaving the building scott-free.
Inside this mysterious room I was greeted with Father McFatherson’s back. Not once during our short conversation did I see his face. The conversation he so desperately needed with me went like this:
“I am disgusted.”
“In all my years as a priest, I have never…” (His life story, was also very vague with apparently not a lot of things that were interesting enough to remember.)
I tried, of course.
“But I don’t understand what I’ve done!”
So, I left completely confused but assumedly free. I headed to my next class that I was now late for.
Sitting next to my class mates, we explored the reasons for these rather unusual ‘disciplinary’ and came to the confusion that perhaps they might have been a little upset with causing my entire line to laugh at me, therefore throwing the entire service into what they viewed as pure chaos. The almost A&E level of bread-consumption did cross my mind, but trust me when I say there have been far worse disruptions in this particular school and it’s assembly’s.
My backside had barely touched my seat before a teacher poked his head in the door, informing me that the head of Religious Education would like to see me in her office. The mere mention of her name made my heart sink. This was the type of teacher who got a kick out of handing out test results in a grand, dramatic act of ordering them from highest score to the lowest, just so everyone knew what everyone got. When I was barely 13, I got the lowest score in the class in an RE test. I still remember the rolling eyes and the disapproving way she said my name. And the oh so constructive criticism she gave me. “Better try harder next time.”
On a side note, if you are a teacher and think this is a good way of motivating kids to do better and work harder, it doesn’t. the only thing it increases is that student’s hatred for you as well as highlighting said teacher’s such high level of insecurity that they feel the need to belittle their students.
To my reluctance, I headed into the head of RE’s office. Can you guess what she said?
“I am disgusted.” (you can see a pattern emerging here.)
“NO ONE has told me what I’ve done wrong!” I said, trying my best not to scream.
Her face wrinkled up like a dying raisin.
“Oh, DON’T you play coy with me, you know full well what you did! Making sexual gestures to Sister (name)!”
Now, readers. I want you to go find a mirror. Once you’ve placed your face into easy sight in said mirror, I want you to make a V shape with your index and middle finger, like your telling someone to piss off. But instead, I want you to bring said gesture up to you mouth. Now, open your mouth and stick your tongue in and out repeatedly until you either smile, laugh or feel uncomfortable.
Imagine your RE teacher doing this to you accompanied by angry, angry eyes. I deserve a medal for managing to keep a straight face in this fine, scarring and unforgettable moment. Mainly because the cogs in my head were finally moving, things were starting to (kinda) make sense.
“Oh.” I said.
Followed by “No, no! You don’t understand.” I pleaded. “The bread got stuck in my mouth.”
You can imagine how that went down.
So of course, I was sent to the Boss level: The headmasters office.
I entered his room, terrified of what kind of punishment they were going to use as their finishing move after this ridiculously long winded flying visits.
The headmaster didn’t look up once from his desk. He stayed silent for what felt like forever. But my fear soon diminished when I realised what he was doing. Or what he was desperately trying not to do. I watched the corner of his mouth twist. A look I’d seen so many times as any other school boy.
He was trying not to laugh.
He spent so long doing it that he’d left it too long.
“Look.” He said as calmly as he could. A humorous shake in his voice escaping.
“Just admit you’ve been a bit of a burke and you can go.”
“… I’ve been a bit of a burke?”
And I never heard about it again. Apart from a friend of mine who made a habit of Nun related gifts for me every birthday. A book on Nuns, Nun Bowling and of course as showing in this blog’s image, A fire breathing ‘Nunzilla’.
The school nun gave me hideous looks every time she passed, which was expected. The head of RE never seemed to like me anyway, so no loss there. But I did learn something that day that will always make me smile. Just a simple thought, a question:
No matter what religion you claim to belong to and no matter what labels you wear, sometimes the thing that disgusts you is only as disgusting as the mind it goes into.