Saturday, October 25, 2008


A prospective nun told several priests who had volunteered to write her letters of recommendation to the Dominican order that her brother had fallen off a courthouse roof. The nun-to-be needed a good story to explain why her brother was in a mental hospital. She feared that if the Dominicans thought that mental illness ran in her family, they would reject her as a potential liability to the order. So she told the priests that her brother began suffering mental problems when he fell off the roof of a courthouse that he’d been repairing as part of a construction crew.

That wasn’t the real story, though: he actually had been a carpenter, true enough-- but he had never fallen from a courthouse roof. At his commitment hearing, his wife testified that she’d found him in the front yard one morning, walking around in his underwear, with no idea where or who he was. She told the judge that her husband suffered from melancholia (depression-- which does, in fact, tend to run in families).

The nun has since passed on (this story took place in 1914): I wonder whether St. Peter opened the gates of Heaven for her, or pressed the Not Ready for Prime Time button instead?

Note: Original story in Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society Quarterly 29:1 (Jul-Sept 2008).

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