Whenever a new nun arrived in the convent, we boarders would study her carefully. Will she be someone who wouldn’t stand any nonsense or would she be one of the naive and gullible ones? If she belonged to the second category, she was going to be subjected to a lot of leg-pulling.
Such a nun was Sister X, who had been transferred to St. Agnes’ Convent, Matale from elsewhere. A diminutive figure, with a childlike face and trusting nature, she was easy prey to our pranks.
Sister X had been given the task of locking up the back gate every evening and my 13-year-old friend Liz and I got into the habit of joining her to walk to the gate. We would pause at the gate for a while idly watching the passers-by.
On that day we were standing at the gate when an elderly gentleman passed by. In his late sixties, he was tall, grey-haired and distinguished looking. He nodded courteously to Sister X and proceeded towards the town.
“A very polite gentleman,” commented Sister. “I wonder who he is.”
I felt Liz give me a warning nudge. Clearly she was hatching some mischief. “Sister," she said hesitatingly, “I want to tell you a secret. That man.. he.. he comes this way most evenings because of me.
“What do you mean because of you?” asked Sister uncomprehendingly. “He comes this way at this time to.. to.. look at me,” explained Liz. “But why?” asked Sister mystified. “Because,” said Liz, “because I think he knows that.. that .. I.. I’m in love with him.”
“What!” Sister looked horrified, “But my dear child, you’re only 13.”
“I know,” said Liz.
“And that… that man.. he’s old enough to be your grandfather exclaimed Sister X.
“I know, I know,” replied Liz contritely.
“But I can’t help being in love. I keep thinking of him all the time even when I eat or sleep or study. I can’t get him out of my mind. I know it’s love alright.”
There was silence while Sister digested this piece of reasoning. Then, “it’s a sin,” said Sister suddenly, “It’s a sin to indulge in such thoughts, and at your age too.”
“But I can’t forget him, Sister,” said Liz in pretended misery.
“Pray,” said Sister X, “Pray hard and I’ll pray too that you will be given the strength to get over this temptation.”
“Yes, Sister,” promised Liz.
In the days that followed we soon forgot the episode. Not so, Sister X. “Well, has she got over it?” she asked me in a conspiratorial whisper one day.
“Has who got over what?” I asked mystified, “Liz,” she hissed, “and that man. Have you forgotten?”
“ I … er think so,” I stammered.
After that we decided it was time to end Sister’s misery.” We went in search of her. “Sister, I’ve got over it,” said Liz “I really have.”“Oh, thanks to the Lord,” said Sister beaming, “Prayers are never wasted.”
Liz was thoughtful as we walked back.
“I’m worried about all the unnecessary prayers that Sister said for me,” she commented. “Let’s go to the Chapel and offer Sister’s prayers for someone else.
“For whom did you offer the prayers?” asked Liz as we came out of the Chapel.
“For poor Sister X herself,” I replied.
“Oh I’… said Liz, “Can’t you guess? I offered them for the old gentleman.”