"If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain."

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

A Library in Your Pocket

December 20, 2009

An Angel Among Shepherds

Casting of the Christmas pageant at Sacred Heart was an unnecessary reminder of my lowly place in the socio-economic strata of Catholic school life. My parents were divorced. Strike One. My mother worked as a waitress in a bar. Strike Two. I was left-handed. Strike Three.  According to the nuns constant scowls. I was surely destined to burn in hell as the spawn of Satan should.

My heart's secret desire was to be cast as the Holy Virgin Mary, but year after year, I was relegated to the army of angels, doomed to kneel on the wooden stage in a prayerful pose, silent witness to the birth of Christ, tin-foiled wings proving I was no more than a poser. My white toga, a recycled ghost from Halloween.  Deceptively precocious, it was not lost on me that Jesus came to save everyone on the stage except the angels.

My brothers, meanwhile, were always cast as shepherds in plaid robes, never wise men bearing gifts, never Inn keepers and most certainly, never Joseph. In the pre-pageant Halloween season, they donned their exact same shepherd robes, but called themselves Hoboes.

Our paternal grandfather was an actual shepherd in Sicily before immigrating to America. I suppose we may have real angels in our family too, but none that I've yet met.


  1. Your memories of Catholic school and the whole society that the nuns made reverberates so much with me!! I swear we went to the same school! I always wanted to be the queen of the May procession, but given that my grandparents (baptist at that) were raising me since my mother had forgotten the whole marriage THEN baby sequence, the nuns sequestered me and the only two black kids in the school WAYYY back in the classroom!

  2. Thanks for the comment. I was also always in the back of the class. When I switched to public school and they sat you by height, I ended up front and center, which is the only thing that made me miss the parochial experience.