BANNER
koi sidebar

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019
line


Diana Webb’s “Holy Day of Obligation,” A Personal Commentary by Doris Lynch

Diana Webb’s lovely short haibun “Holy Day of Obligation” brought to mind my Catholic school youth, but in my grade school, hats had been relegated to Sundays, especially Easter and the weeks following. During our school days, we stored in our desks round mantilla chapel veils, extremely portable, made of white or black lace. Always secured with a bobby pin. We’d walk out the back classroom door toward St. Helena’s Church in Blue Bell, Pa, the wind riffling our lacey accouterments.

For girls who had misplaced their chapel veils, one nun stood at the door with a box of Kleenex and a stack of used bobby pins—often licked by the sister just before attaching it to a girl’s scalp--with a stiff, rusty pin.

“Hats on Catholics. Hats on Catholics." The chant resounds through the corridors of our convent school, captures the constant crowd control and authoritarian commands the nuns bombarded us with all day long. The lines they ordered, two by two, from smallest to largest child, the silence required while marching anywhere.

However, it’s the last line that most struck a chord within me, “The chapel where the Catholic girls are headed remains a centre of mystery deep within the residence of the nuns.” The chapel, the altar especially with its lily and candle wax scent, from which we girls were eternally barred. I remember my shock the first time I saw two of the girls’ mothers behind the altar. They were dusting and cleaning God’s sacred place, but I had no idea they could go beyond the communion rail or even touch the marble altar. And yes, the mystery of a just and beneficent God, I took on faith then bolstered by the incense, hymns, and seasonally colored vestments of the priests. Only years later did I analyze the faith’s tenets until the religion became a kind of fairy tale for me. And I, like the pupils in Webb’s haibun, who had to bend their heads over sums, had to remain on the outside also.


Diana Webb
Leatherhead, Surrey, UK

Holy Day of Obligation

"Hats on Catholics. Hats on Catholics." The chant resounds through the corridors of our convent school. We bend our heads over our sums as fellow pupils hurry to the cloakroom and grab the Panama hats that hang on elastic straps from pegs. The chapel where the Catholic girls are headed remains a centre of mystery deep within the residence of the nuns.

holy of holies
a glint in the eye
of Reverend Mother

 

line

end

| contents page | nsext |

koi sidebar r