Blame it on Hayley Mills

AngelsI was destined to become a nun. I was sure of it.

This movie arrived just in time. Hayley Mills, the original “Parent Trap” star, played a rebellious, difficult cadet at an all girls’ prep school. Her “scathingly brilliant” ideas wreaked havoc for principal Rosalind Russell.

Of course, as movies played out in the 1960’s, she would be the one to receive the calling. She would become a nun.

On a recent favorite blog, someone was asked when they knew they wanted to be a doctor. She said it was in second grade.

At about that time, I was so immersed in my Catholic school culture. I belonged to a group called the “Handmaids of Mary”, a select group of girls who spent a good deal of time in the adjacent convent.

We arrived hours early, attending the morning mass with the sisters before school. After a light breakfast, we spent the rest of the time cleaning the convent. We were the cheapest of labor as “handmaids”.

I didn’t mind. The convent was peaceful. Intensely quiet.

Coming from a household of noise and chaos, this was the draw. Voices were soft and muted. The chapel and library were special, places of prayer and meditation.

There were 8 of them, and they seemed to care deeply about each other, and about their students. It was a real and lovely possibility. Could I have the calling ?Villa

We were invited to visit Villa Maria Academy sometime during 7th grade. I was enchanted.

It was an all girls college prep school, the source of candidates for the IHM convent; Immaculate Heart of Mary, the same order of nuns I had come to love.

It could easily have been the model for the Hayley Mills movie, palatial buildings in a pastoral setting. The dormitories were modest, but lovely. Academy

The uniforms were crisp dark blazers, grey wool skirts, Buster Brown leather shoes and  cotton knee socks. I had no problem dressing like everyone else; it was the equalizer of my childhood.

The tuition was steep, out of my family’s reach, so I applied for the only scholarship to be granted to my school. It went to another student. It was not meant to be.

I moved forward, had some success in public high school.

Puberty happened. I never looked back.

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24 Responses to Blame it on Hayley Mills

  1. I love early religious experience stories…I wanted to be a nun once, and I was not even Catholic!

  2. LadyPinkRose says:

    You just about made me fall off my chair. You mentioned schools that I know here in the locality where I live. I too went to private schools. I too was enchanted by the deep silence but my place was in the church itself. I Loved going alone, smelling the incense, feeling the presence of Angels, having so much reverence in my Heart. Unfortunately those days are long over, and the experiences I held then, I do not have now within a church. Mother Nature has become my “church”. And then some. (smile) Love, Amy ❤

    • I agree on the churches…but only the older, cathedral-like ones. I lost interest when they were replaced by modern structures with fake stained glass and comfortable seats. The one from my childhood, built in 1870’s, sits empty and without purpose, when the parishes were consolidated. Ugh. One of my goals is to do a European church tour. Thanks, Amy ☺

  3. Oh Van, I love that line: Puberty happened. I never looked back! ❤
    Diana xo

  4. I love old churches – the glass. The wood. The soaring celings. I remember doing a high school music concert in the big-old church in our small town, and the accustics were enough to bring me to tears!

    (beautiful things make me cry…and I’m proud of it)

    Love the buildings. The message, unfortunately, is getting lost more and more each day.

  5. LaVagabonde says:

    Sister Van! 😀 I can understand the appeal of such a peaceful atmosphere, but I’m sure there are convent politics to deal with. No matter how much my grandmother tried to push me to become a nun, I was never attracted to it. My sister had a fixation with it for a short time as a child, but now she’s a vehement atheist. Do Americans even enter convents anymore? Catholic school sure was character building, wasn’t it? Oh the stories…

    • I’m sure they were as human as anyone else. I just never saw anything negative. There was no pressure to be religious. I did have an uncle who was in seminary, but stopped short of the priesthood. Catholic school…so many stories, but for me, it was home. Thanks, Julie. ☺ Sister Van, IHM ???

  6. My oldest friend went to Villa Maria Academy. Small world. Also, as a young girl I was constantly told how much I looked like Hayley Mills which was a secret thrill. And as a good Catholic girl, I often drifted off to sleep fantasizing about what a good nun I would be especially saving orphans. Hey, it was my fantasy! Hormones eventually tromped that idea into the ground. You are not alone, Van.

    • I was so sure, Barb, but I was 12…so, there’s that ! Was your friend tempted to enter religious service ? How wonderful to look like Hayley…I was a huge fan, her look, and her accent. And those hormones…thwarted a lot of plans !! ☺

  7. megdekorne says:

    I too wanted to be a nun even though I wasn’t even Catholic … Now “all is one ” and I’m at peace being a nature nun ! …love you Van … Xxxmeg

  8. I wasn’t raised in a religious home, but I can see the draw of the serenity you describe. Interesting how some doors close and others open. How easily we could be on an entirely different path.

  9. Angie Mc says:

    No wonder we connect, Van 😀 I remember actually “ducking” when a kindly nun was talking to the girls in our class about vocations. Physically, I ducked down and prayed, “Please let me be a mama!” And so it would be. Funny, as an 8 year old I wasn’t all that keen on the husband part of the marriage vocation 😉 Through elementary school I also volunteered, but at the IHM old folks home. I wasn’t allowed to go to the men’s side, but one time I was asked to collect hangers there and quickly learned why it wasn’t in my best interest to be there 😀

    To answer a question asked above, women in religious orders continues to decline, which could be connected with the aging population. But there are convincing numbers, especially in certain pockets, that show those joining orders is on the rise.

    One of the hardest things for me to leave from the east coast, was beautiful church architecture. When I came out west and saw for the first time, what I call “spaceship” churches (round, walk down to the altar, etc.), I thought to myself, no wonder people don’t want to come here 😦 Thankfully, changes are being made and hopefully this terrible architecture era will swiftly be an ugly memory. Beautiful architecture doesn’t have to be old, expensive, and ornate, but it does need to be excellent. Van, I would *love* to go on the European church tour with you 😀

  10. lbeth1950 says:

    I never had those deep thoughts. I was trying to figure out how to be a boy so I wouldn’t have to wear dresses.

  11. Of course, you were. lol (I was just trying to remember the last time I wore a real dress. 1991 ??)

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