And after all these years, I thought Crosier was either a bone-crushing lineman or a sergeant in the fighting archangel corps…
I take it out of the blue and yellow banana box every few years to look back to 1969, the year I graduated from Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, Massachusetts. Crosier 69 is written in dark blue letters on a golden jacket cover, the course texture of which is still a mystery to me.
More of a mystery, however, is the lack of reference to the word on the inside pages – nothing. But that’s no excuse; I should have researched it long ago.
For all I knew, it was someone’s surname – maybe a linebacker from the class of ’55, somebody they called Bone Crusher Crosier who helped win football conference championships. Or was it about angels – a fighting archangel, Crosier the Obscure?
The truth is I never looked up its meaning or how it came to be the name of our yearbook. Deep down, I assumed it was a word cloaked in Catholic secrecy. Perhaps it was an unspoken blessing, rarely used incense or a seldom-sung hymn.
The word surfaced this past Sunday at church. It popped out at me from a stack of cards in our pew. There it was, in bold text, next to the graphic of a shepherd’s staff with a definition from the Diocese of Tulsa:
“The crosier is a walking staff, a symbol of authority conferred on bishops at their installations. The top of the staff is curved like a shepherd’s crook to remind each bishop of his pastoral duties toward the people entrusted to him through Christ. The crosier is a support to a bishop as he leads his flock on their journey through life.”
During Mass, I thought about the crosier and its symbolism. But mostly, I thought about the nuns who taught at Archie’s, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who founded the school in 1949. They were our bishops, our shepherds without the symbolic staffs.
They led us in Latin, lit and religious studies. They were taskmasters, cheerleaders and sounding boards. They led us in prayer in the classroom and by the lobes of our ears out of it whenever necessary.
There were the comic intimidators like Sister PJ, she of little patience for those who drew blanks in class. “Sit down, ham bone,” was a line I heard more than once. Or, “Sweet mother of the light,” a favored utterance in times of complete exasperation.
There were eccentric vigilantes like Sister Tall Paul who spoke in tongues of trigonometry and who once interrogated me after class about “profaning” the top of my desk with mathematical commentaries about square roots. When she later apprehended the actual perp, she apologized and handed me an apple in peace.
There were jewels like Sister Virginia, a.k.a. Sta’, the quiet rock whose spirit I still feel today. Her gentle prayers had legs; they took us places. So did her smile and laughter. She was the sunbeam behind ominous clouds.
All this from the word, crosier. I’ll remember it now, just like I’ve always remembered those nuns. They were the ones who helped us get ready for our journeys through life. They were our teachers, our candles and our shepherds of light.
Crosier… what a great name for a yearbook.