Feb 22, 2009

Directions from Sister Saba

She was about 12 years old in the 'old country' when her father was drafted to fight in World War I. She and her mother never knew when or where his death occurred, or where his body lay, just that he was one of many who died anonymously in that terrible war. In her 70's when I began to know her, she looked confidently forward to meeting both her parents someday in heaven.

Her vocation to the religious life led her to a Franciscan convent first in the 'old country,' then to a new convent in the U.S. sometime in the 1920's. Her religious order was devoted to instructing young children in Catholic education.

This very small (petite) nun wore a long black habit, a headpiece that covered all her hair, and functional black leather shoes. Glasses framed her slender face that clearly was once beautiful. Always busy, but never too busy, she seemed to be totally directed to pleasing God.

My children and I remember Sr. Saba vividly and fondly as a teacher in the early 1970's. When she was told she was too old to teach, she begged to stay as the sacristan and as the librarian for the parish school. Thus, at the age of about 75 she took a class in library science at a secular college.

Sr. Saba studied very hard for a test, yet was told she had missed a key question--"What kind of books should you recommend to your students?" She was very distressed that her answer had been judged wrong and asked me whether I thought her answer was incorrect. The answer she had given was to recommend books that would teach Christian values and encourage moral actions. In contrast, the secular instructor judged the 'correct' answer to be those books that explored new ideas.

I laughed and told Sr. Saba that her answer was right. I think it might have been her first real experience with secular humanism in schools and its materialistic kinks and prejudices.

In the 1930's some of Sr. Saba's relatives had moved to St. Louis, MO from the 'old country' and had quit going to Mass. Sr. Saba said they did not resume the practice of their faith until after two Legion of Mary members knocked on their door. Sr. Saba was eternally grateful and so in her late 70's she also volunteered to be the spiritual director of the Legion of Mary.

The pastor was very comfortable with Sr. Saba's always humble, yet firm and insightful spiritual direction. Here's some of what I remember about and learned from Sr. Saba.
  • When you pray the Hail Mary in the Rosary, don't you dare mumble the words, 'pray for us now and at the hour of our death.' Your earthly life may end sooner than you expect.
  • Braid and weave palms distributed at Palm Sunday Mass. Make crosses, grape bunches, cords, and other beautiful religious objects and give blessed handmade gifts to others. [See photo of Sr. Saba's handiwork from over 25 years ago.]
  • When you don't know which direction to take (and neither one seems preferable), toss a miraculous medal in the air and select the way to go based on which side lands up!
  • Don't give up on anyone, especially people who are bitter at God and everyone else. Once a disabled young man was very nasty to her, yet she was unaffected by his bad remarks and remained only concerned about him.
Dear Sr. Saba, may God reward you with His choicest blessings in heaven. [The youthful Sr. Saba had celebrated only 20 birthdays when she died in 1985. Can you guess why?]