There's a serious version of my Come-and-See at the Missionaries of Charity. This, dear reader, is not it. It has not been written, and may or may not be. Instead, I offer this collection of unconnected, but illuminative, moments from my stay:
*The startled moment when I realized that Uncle Barney was not in fact a pet goat, but rather a donor (of vegetables and baked goods) who has been coming weekly to the Bronx and Harlem houses since at least 1984.
*Yes, indeed. It is possible to make soup from chicken broth, potato, sausage...and oatmeal.
*The nightly sound of either bad brakes, mournful werewolves, or a succession of sacrificial cats...I was never certain.
*Door-to-door salesmen would starve to death in the Bronx. MC's trying to visit "their" families just get really sore knuckles. And plenty of chances to pray Memorares for the intention of someone, anyone, coming to open the outer door.
*Being utterly delighted to see cheesecake for afternoon tea, and just knowing it was the best cheesecake ever - cream cheese, not ricotta, with all this fresh fruit topping...and holding my fork ready to dig in...and then hearing the bell to get up and go to afternoon apostolate (work)...And then waking up the rest of the way. Decidedly, no cheesecake.
*Regarding the above: is there another order in the world that has afternoon tea built into it's schedule? Granted that the food part could be anything from cake, to nothing, to gummi worms..still, I like!
*It was strange to be in a room where people smoked, and smoked regularly (the homeless shelter, not the convent!). I can't even tell you when I last saw an ashtray that wasn't gathering dust on a thrift-store shelf...smoking indoors is some 80's anachronism, almost.
*Meeting Sister Dorothy, one of the first women to join Mother Teresa. Let's just pass over the part where I first met her by almost knocking her over...in Adoration...while she was genuflecting...
*Glancing up at a cloudy sky and hoping, reflexively, that the laundry was in off the roof.
*This exchange during dinner, while considering a bowl of good but extremely greasy sausage:
Sister Sarah:"This looks like it might be that stuff - transfat - we should not eat."
Me, eyeing the bowl, then Sister:"When I get back to Baltimore, I don't know what I'm going to tell the sisters."
Sister Sarah:"You can tell them that Sister gave you a big bowl of transfat."
*Or this, during choir practice, whilst trying to puzzle out a melody:
Sister:"Divine and human are the same." [Pause] "That sounds like heresy."
*Returning from a drive to see the foliage, we've stopped along the way to get gas. Inside the station, a man comes up to Sister, asks if she is one of Mother Teresa's sisters, and gives her a donation. Per MC custom, she asked him for his name so we could pray for him. And that was how, back in the van, we found ourselves praying the last decade of the Rosary for "Joe the Plumber".