Not everyone who has attended a Catholic school has been fortunate enough to have nuns as their teachers. As Catholic schools hire more secular educators, finding nuns in the class is not as common as it used to be, at least in my neck of the woods. Growing up I was very blessed to be surrounded by the Sisters of the Sacro Costato order. They were and still are some of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever encountered. Feisty, charismatic, and passionate for God, they were never afraid to tell you what you needed to fix -- but they did it with love and kindness.
I’d love to tell you that I was the most studious and well-behaved student but that would be inaccurate. Yet I learned some valuable lessons from them that I’ve taken with me into adulthood that many can learn from. Below are a few lessons I picked up from the Sisters over the years.
Always keep clean attire.
The Sisters wore white dresses and black veils. Keeping white clean on a DAILY basis is enough of a penance than anyone can imagine, yet these ladies always were well groomed, ironed, and clean. As an adult I always think of them when I iron because it reminds me of diligence that I don’t always have or want to have. If they can keep clean, I can do it. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. *Disclaimer: Never hug a nun while you have a full can of Tahitian punch in your hand. I learned this one the hard way from Sr. Wanda.
Nuns were eco-friendly long before it was cool.
Anything can be used, upcycled and reused, especially if it is a prop for a Christmas pageant. Don’t waste what you have that’s right in front of you. You’ll be surprised at what creativity can come from old tinsel and shepherds' robes.
Nicknames can be a term of endearment or a gentle means to get your act together.
I had many nicknames from the nuns. Most were terms of endearment and spoken in Italian. “Faccia bella" (which means "beautiful face") was used by the Italian nun, Sr. Alessandria, to remind us that we are all God’s beautiful children, but when I got her upset (and in my mind this was pretty often) I remember a “faccia bruta" ("not so beautiful face") might have been used on occasion. It was never meant as a physical attack but it was a reminder to get back on track and use our time wisely.
All God’s children are beautiful.
The nuns never treated anyone different. God doesn’t love me more than the homeless man or the wealthy businessman. He doesn’t love someone who does more good deeds than another. We are all the same in God’s eyes, yet his love is abundant.
Singing is a form of prayer.
I remember in first grade one of my first prayers was sung in the form of "Angel of God." To this day I still sing this to my children. Prayer in song form is so glorious and so uplifting. It allows us to lift up our voices to God.
There is so much joy in loving Jesus.
These women had devoted their lives to God, making vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty. While they had very little in material possessions their lives were very full of meaning and joy. We do not always need the extras and the extravagance to be happy, because it’s a temporary happy. When I was in fifth grade, we would visit the elderly in convalescent homes with the Sisters and put on plays. My gift of time with them was a beautiful treasure and could not be replaced of the physical desires of the world.
Prayer cards can be an influential gift.
I remember anytime we did something in the classroom that merited an award or praise, the nuns would hand out prayer cards. I always felt special receiving these from the nuns, as if this was my own little special message from God sent directly through them. Even today, I will grab a few extra cards from the local Catholic supply shop and hand them out as gifts. It’s amazing how a short prayer or reminder to ask for intercession from the saints can make a person’s day.
Jesus wants you to give love as well as to receive it.
You know the cliché about people who are on an airplane and the plane is going down and you need to put on your own oxygen mask and breathe in the oxygen before you can help others put on their masks. This was the lesson that I learned from Sr. Wanda. If I want to help others I also need to know that rest and boundaries are important too. You can’t be your best self if you’re stretching yourself thin.
Bring flowers to Mary.
Offering flowers to our blessed Mother is a physical reminder of the love we need to show to the mother of our Lord. I enjoyed so much the special celebrations in May that our sisters would hold in the classroom as we said Rosaries and special prayer devotions to the Blessed Mother.
God is always listening.
Prayer was probably the number-one lesson. If we have any worries or stresses, give it to God. If we have joyous moments give it to God. God listens to our prayers and wants us to lean on him for everything. God is always listening.
Copyright 2019 Andrea Bear
Images: By Jade MacLean (2019), Pexels; By Vidar Nordli-Mathison (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
Andrea Bear is a wife, mom, and teacher in Stockton, California. In addition to CatholicMom.com, she also writes for HerLife Magazine and Catholic Stand. She recently completed her debut novel, Grieving Daughters Club. When she's not writing or taking her kids to volleyball practice you can find her sipping coffee from the neighborhood coffee establishments or tasting wine from the local vineyards. Visit AndreaBearAuthor.com.