ut why can't she attend? Most all of the other patients do."
"We've been through this before. The other patients don't have
"But she wants to come. She wants to be a nun."
"Of course she does. We represent the only life she knows. But
don't you think it a bit unfair to indoctrinate the girl before she's had the chance to
learn who she is?"
"You talk as if you think our faith will hurt her."
The old nun sighed. She knew full well what stood behind these fervent
protestations. For though Sister Dana's reports maintained a clinical veneer, there were
hints a deeper feeling was involved. And Sister Zoe had watched it happen, trusting it
would not get out of hand, and at the same time hoping Marcy might respond to the loving
care. But could the young nun's faith be counted on to keep her feelings within the limits
of propriety? If not, the risk to each was much too great.
"On the contrary, Sister. Our faith can be quite beneficial, but
only when those who would embrace it do so of their own free will."
Sister Dana searched her wits. She and Sister Zoe had argued many
times. Outcomes were decided by the sounder reason, not by rankalthough to date the
younger nun had seldom won.
"Isn't our way the way, Sister Zoe?"
"That is our Church's teaching."
"Then isn't it our duty to encourage Marcyfor the sake of
her immortal soul?"
"The issue still is one of choice. I'm sure, having been among us,
Marcy will come to understand that our Savior welcomes any and all who seek Him. But we
must lead her to herself if later we are to help her find our Lord."
"Well I don't see how Marcy's attending services takes away her
choice. Doesn't it do just the opposite?"
The point was well taken. Sister Zoe regretted having withheld her real
reason for the prohibition. Better to concede the fault, than to air unorthodox
viewsespecially in front of the impressionable Sister Dana.
"It is not the service; it's the chapel."
Sister Dana failed to follow.
"You're familiar with Marcy's medical file. Consider it for a
moment. Now think: what might be upsetting to such a patient about our chapel."
"I couldn't say. I mean, I'm not sure what you're getting at.
The apprehension in Sister Zoe suddenly took shape for Sister Dana. The
chapel's crucifix! It was, undeniably, graphic, many felt gruesome. And no less so were
the Stations of the Cross. There had been a painful controversy when the works were first
installed, Sister Zoe among others vehemently objecting. But the sanitarium's Board of
Directors unanimously overruled. The artist had been especially commissioned. Endowment
funds had been used. And it was deemed too grave a slight to vote for posthumous
rejection, since, within a week of completing the works, the artist had died. Thereafter,
the nuns did their level best to counteract the morbid atmospherekeeping fresh-cut
flowers in all the chapel's nooks and cranniesbut, even so, it took a while before
the faithful could adjust. Those uninitiated often found the chapel shocking.
"I'm sorry for doubting your judgment, Sister."
"It is I who must apologize to you, Sister Dana. Had I been open
with you, this matter might have been easily resolved."
"I understand, though, Sister."
"You do, yes. I'm glad. But what about Marcy?"
"You told her you were coming to see me?"
"So she'll be disappointed if I don't change my decision. How
"I should have foreseen this. When are you going to see her?"
"As soon as I leave here."
"Send her to me immediately."
"Yes, Sister. I'm sorry, Sister."
The older nun held up her hand.
"No need, no need. The fault is entirely mine."
Sister Dana rose to go. The other nun stopped her.
"By the way, you argued very well."
She flushed with pride.
"Thank you, Sister Zoe."
When she had gone the nun retreated to her chair. She was pensive. The
rebuttal she had withheld came into mind. (Isn't our way the way?) She shook
her head. Religion was too dear a friend to politics. And doctrine oft corroborated power.
Insisting there was one and only one way to salvation was a prime example. Nonsense. If
that were true, there would be no use for fertile imaginations. And would not faith be
dull indeed if every searching soul trod the selfsame path. Sister Zoe believed there were
as many avenues to God as there were menand women; finding each his or her own was
Though how she had tailored this and other controversial views to fit
her habit was at times as much a mystery to herself as to her peers. She dared question,
sometimes even challenge, what most believed to be the very tenets of Catholicism. But it
was her critics who suffered, not her faitha faith grown strong from the exercise
her reason gave it.
She heard a knock.
Marcy must have run. She panted hello and took the seat that Sister Zoe
offered. Her hasty arrival found the nun's plan yet unformulated.
"I didn't expect you so soon. Are you all right?"
Marcy caught her breath.
"Sister Dana said, 'immediately.'"
"And here you are."
"Am I too early?"
"I don't think one can be too early for immediately. No, you're
right on time. Thank you for coming."
She paused to evaluate once again this touchy situation. The girl was
nervous, anxious, no doubt hopefully expectant, and hung upon the immanent decision
which the nun now made.
"I would like to invite you formally to attend our Sunday
Marcy was overjoyed.
"You haven't seen our chapel, have you?"
"Only from the outside."
"Perhaps you'll let me show it to you."
Now, you mean? Right now?"
Marcy sprang to her feet and was at the door before her escort left her
chair. She had to wait, however, as the old nun took her time. Together then, they set out
toward the chapel.