Sr. Mary Dean Pfahler SND
Parish Ministry Director / Spiritual Director
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Long Beach CA

The low-tire-pressure icon appeared on the dashboard – again.  The first time that happened to me in Long Beach, I was informed that – by California law – air is free at gas stations.  However, it turns out I paid a self-service pump $1.50 with a major credit card for enough air to get the icon to go away.

So this time I was going to get professional help.  The Goodyear tire store on the way home from St. Bartholomew’s looked promising; service persons were working on cars in 6 bays.  The gentleman at the desk pointed out an empty bay where I should pull in.  Then he asked, “You’re a nun, right?”  That question  intrigues me, so I had to ask, “How did you know?”  He said he could always tell but didn’t explain how.

The fact that I was wearing a white blouse, black pants and the congregational cross probably helped.  But I was wearing “normal” clothes on Monday night when I accompanied a friend to A Place for Kids in Orange County.  She had been volunteering with this bereavement group for years, and I was sitting in for the first time.  While children meet with their age cohort, the parent or guardian meets with other adults for mutual support.  The grandmother who sat on the far side of the table told my friend afterwards that she knew I was a sister even though I introduced myself as “Mary.”

After 50 years, apparently, the long black habit and veil I used to wear becomes extraneous.


Traipsing through Oak Openings Metropark

On this first day of autumn, a day suddenly 20 degrees cooler than yesterday’s last day of summer, I took the red trail in the metropark. Every step put a few more grains of sand into my tennis shoes, as I ascended to a sand dune. I thought of the glacier that receded eons ago leaving us this dune. I felt grateful for the glacier and God’s creative plan that has evolved into everything we enjoy today—plants, animals, trees, rocks, birds. Although after two miles, I was aware of my physical body, I was more aware of my spirit. The feeling reminded me of Teilhard de Chardin’s writing: “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” My soul grew stronger, as my feet grew heavier. Having enriched my spirit, I felt a little more human. My spirit jogged along.