Today I went to my Parish Credit Union to cash a check. It’s a tiny credit union, tucked away in a corner of the basement of what used to be my parish grade school (now the common grade school for three inner-city Catholic parishes, of which my parish is one). It’s only open three afternoons a week, and is accessed by going through an unmarked door at the bottom of a flight of concrete steps on the back of the school. There is no sign, no posted hours, no advertising. You only know that it is open because when you try the doorknob it is unlocked. I’ve been a member of this credit union since I was in third grade. The ladies who run it, a gang of almost-geriatric matriarchs who could run the world if they ever cared to try, have known me since my family moved to the area when I was five. When I went in, I didn’t bother to bring my bag or wallet in with me. I presented the check I wanted cashed, the woman behind the counter asked me my account number, had me sign on the dotted line, and handed over the money. Just like that, with inquiries after my family’s health, and telling me how good it is to see me again.

On the way out, I passed another Matriarch of the Parish, Mrs. Richardson. She smiled and asked how I was. I replied politely, and it seemed that was it. Then she stopped and asked me how was Lisa, where was she now? I said that she had made it safely to Nairobi, where hopefully she would be able to make arrangements to come home soon. She smiled and nodded, and said she was praying. We parted, but as I walked away, I was shaken. You see, Mrs. Richardson’s sister is Sr. Dorothy Stang, the Sister of Notre Dame who was martyred in Brazil in 2005. She was gunned down on a forest road by hired killers in the pay of rich landowners who didn’t like her work with poor farmers. Her death stunned her family, and our parish. Mrs. Richardson’s sister went into a dangerous situation and never came back. Now she was asking me about my sister, who is in a dangerous situation. Hopefully, however, my sister will come back.

Most of the time I take for granted the kind of community I live in. Even though I usually attend Mass elsewhere, I’m still part of the parish I grew up in. My family is embedded deep in the web of relationships. Because of the strength of that community, I can walk into the credit union and cash a check without ever having to produce any ID, a situation most people haven’t experienced since the 1950s. Every person I encountered knew who I was, knew who my family is, and cared about us. This is partly because we’re an unusual family, but it’s because they’re unusual too. We are a parish that gives birth to martyrs and missionaries and free spirits. We are a parish that cares about God and about each other. We are a parish that trusts and prays for one another.

This is what it means to be part of the Body of Christ.

So last night I had this, “Damn, I’m good!” moment (I was going to write “Dang” but then I decided that the moment was fully worth the swear word). This is what happened: This semester I’m taking a class on Thomas Aquinas (the Big Bad Boy of Catholic theology), and on Tuesday I gave a presentation on part of the Summa (Aquinas’s master work). It went rather well, and I was excited about it. Last night while I was dancing with Pierce he asked me how my week had been. I told him about my presentation. He asked more. I told him more. By the time we were done I had explained all of Part I, Question 105, Article 4 of the Summa Theologica (“Whether God can move the created will?”), complete with Objections, Respondeo, and Answers to the Objections. All of this while doing Lindy and neither missing a step nor failing to follow a single move. Also wrapping it up before the song was done. And I’m pretty sure Pierce understood it.

I can’t believe I did that.

Damn, I’m good!

Of course, having done something like this, I then had to find someone who could fully appreciate my Mighty Deed. This would require a fellow theologian who can dance. There are none that I know of, but I couldn’t wait until I saw Justin tonight so I could tell him all about it.

Also last night, for the first time my dancing was praised by another dancer. I don’t mean that I haven’t gotten compliments before. There’s always the cute little old people who come out for the live swing bands in the summer and just love watching the swing dancers, or beginners who don’t know what good dancing looks like yet. It has been fun watching the number of leads who want to dance with me increase, and I’ve gotten admiring looks or words of praise for individual cool moves. Dancers whose opinions I trust have told me that I’ve improved a lot in different areas. Still, I’ve never felt like my dancing was of a quality that another dancer would get pleasure from watching me. Last night I danced some Westie with Trey, and later Lyle couldn’t get over how amazing the two of us had been. He was in awe at our musicality, the moves we had done, and the way we had mirrored one another: “There was this move right at the beginning that was like a sugar push, but not! And then you both kicked your foot out to the side at exactly the same moment! It was so awesome! I just love watching you two!” It was a little humbling, especially since I didn’t remember doing some of the moves that so impressed him. I’m sure I did them, but, well, for me it had been just another dance with a better than average lead.

Maybe I’m better at this than I think I am.

I have this well-documented fatal weakness for theology professors. It’s true. Stick me in the same room with a reasonably young, reasonably attractive, available, male theology professor on a regular basis over an extended period of time (like, say, in a class), and chances are before we’re done I’ll be crushing on him. The problem is that too often, they seem to crush back

Last Fall I took a class from Carlos, a late-30-something Cuban who looked like a young C.S. Lewis, sang songs to illustrate theological points, and paid me enough particular attention that other students were turning to watch my reactions when he was cute in class. This was all highly encouraging, but my previous experience with Rocco had been scarring enough that I refused to go there until the class was really done.

Then the class was over, and I waited with baited breath for him to make good on all the promises his flirtatious behavior had seemed to make. All through Christmas I waited, and then the agonizing week until New Year’s, when I knew he had to be back in town. It was torture. Finally when school started up again I ran into him, and everything looked promising. He thought I looked great. He wanted to catch up with me sometime, and suggested that we should have lunch. I was on cloud nine. Then we tried to actually schedule this lunch, my busy schedule promptly clashed with his busy schedule, and everything ground to a halt.  That’s where it ended. He ran into one little roadblock and finked out on me. It was a little hard to take. But first Joe came home, and then Trey started borrowing books, and I’ve been a little distracted.

Now school has started again, and somehow I’m seeing a lot of this guy. We both go to noon Mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I keep running into him on campus, and he draws me into long conversations, all about the things I love, about my family, about everything. These are the conversations I would have killed to be having back in January. The problem is that it’s no good. Before this would have been a dream come true. Now I’m aware of a slight sense of impatience when he asks me yet another leading question. I like talking about myself too much to refuse to allow myself to be led, but I’m starting to think about pretending that I don’t see him when I’m in a hurry.

Dang it, Carlos, why couldn’t you have been like this last winter?

Bernadette’s Quote Book:
Dr. Cart: (speaking about my big huge paper): “You did a great job.  I love it!” and “This looks publishable to me.”

Have I mentioned that I love my Professor lately?  Well, I do.  🙂

It’s funny – so far I haven’t been able to hold on to a single copy of my paper.  I print out one or two, thinking that I’ll give one away and have one to keep for myself.  Then I end up giving all of them away.  Sooner or later I’ve got to actually hang on to one, even just to have something to write my edits on.

I am having a quiet day today.  I’ve been having trouble breathing for a little while now.  I had a bad attack about two Wednesdays ago (dancing to a really fast song with Mikky), and my regular asthma meds just haven’t been able to keep things under control ever since.  It’s been gradually getting worse and worse.  Yesterday, every time I climbed the steps to my attic I had to stop and breathe a little while, and sometimes take my rescue inhaler.  Today on the way to school I called for an appointment with my Hero Doctor.  He dosed me up with Prednisone, and told me to go home and sit still in the air conditioning.  So I’m doing that.  It’s not as hard to keep still as you’d think.  I got up a little while ago just to go to the bathroom, and my chest still hurts.  However, it won’t be time to take another dose of my inhaler for another hour or so.  All the steroids are making me kinda loopy anyway.  So I’ll just be quiet here a while.

Today I will breathe.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

I’m taking Theological German this summer (the first time I’ve ever taken a language that’s actually still being spoken).  It’s only been a week, but already there have been some interesting moments.  There’s a Fraulein Meijer who has a thing for her mailman (he seems to rather have a thing for her too – she has him wrapped around “ein klein Finger” – her little finger).  There also have been several quotable quotes.  So without further ado, I present for your delectation:

Bernadette’s Quote Book:
Prof. Chick:
“Everybody knows someone by the name of Heidi.” (somehow I have escaped this…) and “This list is incomplete and has some inaccuracies.”  (Always lovely to hear a professor say that…)
But the best is from Prof. Lichen: (describing how to pronounce the word böse) “You pucker up like you’re gonna kiss somebody, but don’t let your tongue slide to the back of your mouth.”

I gotta tell ya, friends, there’s nothing like sitting around a table with a bunch of theology grad students, all snickering at the same thing and not looking at each other.  There’s some things that are the same, no matter what you’re studying. 

One of the other interesting things in that class is how outnumbered the girls are.  It’s at least 2 guys to every girl, and of those I think I’m the only woman under 40.  This is in contrast to the guys, all but one of whom are in their 20s or early 30s.  Someone once told me that theology, particularly Roman Catholic theology, is one of the last Old Boy’s Clubs left in our world, which is even more interesting since most of them are Celibate Old Boys.  Although I think that’s changing.  None of the guys in my class, to my knowledge, are entering the priesthood, although one or maybe two have been in the seminary at one point or another.  Three of the guys are married, and another will be at the end of June.  It’s going to be very interesting seeing how theology will change over the next fifty years.  Still, I think I’d better get used to being surrounded by testosterone!