Laughter in the monastery


In old photos, religious Sisters always look so solemn.  Even in my community, among Sisters I know, the image persists of Sisters in habits looking holy, always being on time for prayers, and never, ever laughing.  This Saturday at lunch, I was reminded that we are all human beings and that the Sisters (and the students they taught) had moments of foolishness and fun.

I don’t remember how the conversation began, but one of the first stories was about a long-gone sacristan using full boxes of Easter Vigil tapers to support a nativity set on the floor of a church which had radiant heating.  When the Sister telling the story was sent over to help clean up, the wax was melted solid in the boxes and stuck to the floor.  The superior, also no longer with us, had no idea why it took several days to take down the nativity set, but apparently never found out about the minor disaster, and those of us at the table were left to wonder how Easter Vigil proceeded later in the year minus several boxes of tapers!

Melting wax led naturally to stories about high school seniors attempting to burn their uniforms on the last day of school–the uniforms being polyester, they melted rather than burning.  Other stories about disposing of school uniforms included mounting them on the flag pole. Some of the Sisters were teaching or in administration, but others at the table seem to have participated in them–happily not at the same time as far as I could tell.  The final story of the meal was about a group of Sisters who hid a candy Easter chick in the bottom of a crate of eggs to be discovered by the superior several weeks later.  She was not amused, but the other Sisters in the house were.


In the Rule, Benedict inveighs against laughter, which some commentators have suggested prohibits not joking at the expense of others.  These stories were told with great humor and no malice–except possibly toward the school uniforms. While the current community is not always solemn and serious, we are not given to practical jokes and pranks.  This Saturday, though, I laughed so hard at lunch that my face hurt!