Okay, I guess it isn't just Vocations Week here on Seraphic Singles; it's Nun Week. Since most of you want to get married and have babies--and why not? I almost always did---you may be getting impatient. But hey, after seven years of blogging, it's time I had a Nun Week, you know?
As we all know, Catholic education for girls used to done mostly by women religious. When I was in theology school, I heard a lot of moaning that these women were mostly under-educated and really didn't know much beyond what they had to teach infants and some of them walloped babies, etc., etc.* Incidentally, my mother used to be a Protestant, and she says teachers walloped children at her "public" (state) school, too. Walloping children is what almost all teachers used to do. Even Anne of Green Gables at last broke down and feruled bad little Anthony Pye. Of course some of these teachers, lay or religious, Catholic, Protestant and Freethinker, were probably sadistic jerks, and I don't quite get why there have been no class action suits against Britain's most notorious/famous public schools.
I believe that the women religious of days of yore were undereducated with the same fervour I believe that Emperor Constantine ruined the Christian church, and it was all increasingly downhill for Catholics until The New Pentecost of 1962, i.e. no fervour at all. One of the charms of religious life is that it gives you a lot of time for serious reading. And when she was in Carmel, Saint Edith Stein was perfectly willing to stop her intellectual work and just scrub the floor, but her wise superior eventually told her to stop scrubbing and go back to writing. When the Allies bombed her convent, the nuns and townsfolk scurried about saving her papers. (Mention that the next time people tell you the Catholic Church hates women.)
Nowadays, of course, most Catholic teachers are not sisters but layfolk, men and women, and in Canada and the UK, they get paid really well. In Ontario their pensions are fantastic. When my sister got a job with a Catholic board, I almost cried with happiness. Stable job for life, good pension, and it's an elementary school in X, so no drugs-and-sex problems to depress her. Also, my sister goes to Mass and comes from a Mass-attending Catholic family, so she is actually, you know, Catholic.
A woman I know here in Scotland is now homeschooling her children, so that they will have a Catholic education. Previously, she had sent them to Catholic schools. However, this ended when she discovered that (A) the "Catholic" teachers openly mocked principles of the Catholic faith and (B) the other "Catholic" kids made fun of her children for going to Mass on Sundays. Let's just say I was not shaken to the core with shock. That kind of thing happens back home in Canada, too, believe me.
But I don't want to dust all lay Catholic teachers with the same chalk-brush. My guess is that there are tens of thousands of Catholic teachers who are loyal to the Catholic faith, and tens of thousands more who would be loyal to the faith if priests and theologians stopped with the wink-wink-nudge-nudge stuff about sex, birth control, divorce, Mass attendence, "Rome" and the entire history of the Church between Constantine and 1962, except where it suits them (Hildegard! Mary Ward! St Francis in the dungeon! St. Ignatius in prison! Catholic Worker!). Still, how many Catholic parents are brave enough, or have the power to establish, what kind of Catholic teacher has the ears of their tiny tots or beautifully hulking adolescent from 9 AM to 3:00 PM?
I will now amaze you all by stating that my plan, if I had daughters, was not to send them to Catholic school at all but to, by hook or crook or harvested kidney, get them into one of the last surviving private girls' schools in Edinburgh and oversee their religious instruction myself. I would encourage them to make friends with girls from other devout families, be those families Presbyterian, Jewish, Catholic or Muslim. Anything rather than have them inoculated against the faith in a local Catholic school. A little bit of Catholicism can inoculate a child from the real, full-blown thing.
Naturally I would have preferred to send these sadly non-existent daughters to a proper convent school run by nuns, where not only would they have a Catholic education without any wink-wink-nudge-nudge, but examples of women who, unlike their mother, can get by in life without clandestine trips to the MAC counter and base flattery of anyone handsome in trousers. (A more serious-minded girl in the Ontario Students for Life movement dismissed me as "a party girl", and, alas, 'tis true, 'tis true. La la.)
But there aren't any proper convent schools within miles and miles because most of them have closed down, due not only to a lack of women religious to run them, but the new interest of women religious in advanced university degrees and proper careers. I once met a woman religious, from a once-famous teaching order, who worked in a factory as an engineer by day and returned to her apartment by night, which she may or may not have shared with another woman religious. I remember her because she was the bitterest nun I ever met in my life. She really hated the bishop of her diocese and felt marginalized by him, etc., etc. Amusingly, I had been experiencing a little tug towards religious life, but she cleared that right up.
Her memory makes me wonder if she might not have been happier as a science teacher in a girls' school, living in a proper, polished convent with a dozen or more nuns instead of one or none, singing Lauds and Vespers and cutting capers at Recreation. She might have inspired hundreds of girls to become engineers and tens of girls to become science-teaching women religious. Instead of longing with angry passion to be on the Bishop's advisory committee, she might have felt somewhat indifferent to the Bishop, or seen him as the much-prayed-for figurehead who preferred seedy cake with his tea, in contrast to the last one, a fiend for chocolate.
You can see where I am going with this. Yes. As usual, I am calling for Catholic Revolution, or Counter-Revolution, or the Restoration, whichever you like to call it. The thing to do, and many good girls are doing this, bless them, is to join real, solid, teaching orders with a healthy, loving attitude towards their spiritual ancestresses, not just the apparently super-feminist-and-rebellious-and-prophetic foundress. And those married Catholics in the near vicinity, if they won't actually starve to death, could make the sacrifices Catholics used to make for their children, to send their children to these nuns and to help out the nuns in any way they can, remembering always that they themselves are the primary educators of their children.
And now that I have said all that, I think I will find out if there IS a single good teaching order left in Scotland, so I can send them some money for their school.
*This is not to denigrate the sufferings of those who really did fall into the hands of horrible women in dysfunctional communities. To this very day, children end up in the hands of wicked adults who do unspeakable things while other adults turn a blind eye. Now that most of us know about this possibility, we can thoroughly scrub both kinds of behaviour--the abuse and the turning a blind eye--out of our societies.