Some of you are too young to remember a TV show of about 20 or 30 years ago, starring, as I recall, Tracy Nelson. Others have probably forgotten it; it didn’t run long. Tracy played a single, fast-living, news photographer, able to hold her own with her male colleagues in the news room or in the bars after work.
In one episode she is sent on an undercover assignment to a convent. In one scene, she, dressed as a nun, is walking up the center aisle of the chapel of the convent and meets in the middle of the aisle a real nun walking towards her. They recognize each other for they had years previously been party animals together. The character played by Tracy is so completely surprised that she even thinks first that the other woman is there impersonating a nun just as she is. That momentary confusion passes quickly, and she asks the nun, how did this happen, how did she become a nun The nun replied, “I got tired of living like a drunken slut.” And the nun then asks the Tracy character, “How about you? What are you doing now?” And Tracy has a sudden look of, not really remorse, but introspection, and replies, “I guess I’m still a drunken slut.”
Of course, it wasn’t the arc of the development of the sitcom series that the Tracy character would go on in later episodes to deeper introspection and a new life. The episodes the following weeks didn’t build on this one. But that one or two minute scene in that episode has always stayed with me. The writers might have written those lines with nothing more in mind than laughter, but I wondered then and ever since how many young women following the series and thinking that the fictional life of the Tracy character was glamorous would have been brought up short by that brief scene. I’ve even wondered if perhaps some young women might have found in that short scene the beginnings of their aspirations to a religious life. I thought it a most remarkable way that TV conveyed a teaching moment without intending to do so at all.
“Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices. Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 12-January-2016.