Biker Nuns

The first one, when she was an actual official nun, was named Mary Sophia Kelley.  Irish Catholic born and bred.  In the late ‘70‘s she left her order, married a priest, and on the surface started an ordinary life.  They found a parish where they could still attend Mass, although it was not wise to be too obvious.  By the end of the ‘80‘s they ran a small law firm, having gained some family money through death, and gone to law school not exactly certain as to why.

When the abuse of children scandals broke in the ‘90‘s, they knew why.  They didn’t charge a lot, but sued the Church and got mentioned in the press, which they didn’t like, and which of course was strange for lawyers.  Except when you thought about it, and became friends with them.  On a moral level they had never really left Mother Church at all - just taken up an unusual calling.

They had no children, which for both was sad, for they had seriously tried.  But by the time they were the core support for a lot of formerly abused broken men, they realized why God left them childless, in the usual sense.  They now had a large family, and as the law firm gained and managed increasing wealth, they were able to provide a lot of help, moral support and otherwise.

Then, as the century turned, the Third Millennium arrived, Mary S. Kelley esq., of Kelley and Kelly (a real fact of their marriage, and the source of a lot of ice-breaking fun) first saw the initial episodes of the TV show: Sons of Anarchy.  She was just over 60 years old, and somehow completely identified with the main female matriarchal character, Gemma, played by the actress Katey Sagal. 

Two years later Mary S. Kelley bought her first motorbike, a Harley of course.  It had two seats and three wheels, and at first she told no one about it.  In fact, she had a leather jacket made up, with a small circle in the center of a large cross on the back, around the edges of which it said: Sisters of Perpetual Motion.  It was at a large family Halloween celebration that she first showed up, on her new bike, with her new jacket, and made up by a friend to look just like Gemma, tattoos and all.  Including some remarkably adventurous cleavage. 

David, her husband, didn’t know what to do, at first.  But it wasn’t long before he was grabbing her, and dragging her into a bedroom (it wasn’t even their house), and ... well the rest is best left to the imagination.  His “vote” then, was very positive.

If the weather was good she took to riding the bike to work, jacket and all, although no cleavage, and no fake tattoos.  This being the age of social media, and she having a couple of hundred Facebook, former and active nun friends, there was a lot of discussion.  For the most part, people laughed, although others took a hard line and thought she was going too far.  The best part for her was about a month later when three ladies her own age dropped by - on their own bikes - unannounced, and wanted to know where to get similar jackets and best of all: how do they form a motorcycle club.

While that was happening, the Church struck.  The local Bishop sent an underling to see her at the law firm, basically ordering her to appear before him.  Kelley and Kelly where used to this game, and had decided not to make an issue of it, given the needs to keep up as good a relationship with the Church as possible, for the benefit of their “boys”.  So Mary S. Kelley went to see the Bishop. 

One of the strategies she and David used, was to make sure they were never within 10 feet of the Bishop, forcing him to not try to demand they kiss his ring.  If they were not too close, it would have been awkward for the Bishop to hold out his hand at that distance, and she followed the same strategy here.  When the aide-priest tried to get her to sit in a chair near the bishop’s desk, she moved the chair further away.  It was a language that was clear, and which said, “ yes I will come, I owe the Church that much, but I no longer follow the vow of obedience, so don’t even try.”

Knowing his authority was not going to work, the bishop tried persuasion.  Again a strategy - listen, and make no comment.  Don’t even speak.  David had been a Jesuit, and knew how the “argument” game was played.  The bishop spoke and Mary S. Kelley listened.  That was all that happened.  Of course he tried all kinds of methods, but the central point was to try to stop what he called the sinful disease of the idea of nuns on motorbikes from spreading.  He didn’t even know about the visit from her three new friends.  All he knew was what had been reported to him, from the Facebook friends that hadn’t liked what she was doing - essentially a kind of spiritual gossip.

As is usual in such situations, what the Church tried failed - at least at this level - who knows what the this Pope, or the next one, might do.  Or better said, it backfired.  A few weeks later, the Nuns on Bikes, Sisters of Perpetual Motion was organized as a club, officers and all.

For awhile they just met with each other.  Their numbers slowly grew.  The question of letting men join came and went - with a resounding “no”.  All of these women were following the growing disconnect between the Church and those women still trying to live within the modern seas of Church troubles.  Somehow the question of what to do to help them became the core question of the meaning of the Club, of the MC, as they took to calling it, after the affectations of speech imprinted by watching Sons of Anarchy. 

Social media also had things to say, and one day, at the beginning of a Facebook publicized meeting of the Sister of Perpetual Motion, about fifty unknown male and female bikers showed up, all of them from clubs made up of evangelical Christians, who saw themselves, collectively, as Bikers for Christ, although they were from several MCs, all with different names.  People made jokes about some kind of ecumenical impulse, but after a while the jokes stopped, and everyone realized this might be a lot more serious than they had thought.

Theological arguments broke out, but no fights.  Some smoked, or drank, or smoked and drank, but in the end one matter was pretty clear.  They were going to find reasons to ride together.

As the gathering wound down, one evangelical got up to speak, identified himself as a professor of history and sociology, stating that in his view the age of patriarchies was ending and a new age of matriarchies was beginning.  He was remarkably concise for a teacher, and quickly made his point.  He wanted Mary S. Kelley to be the head of whatever organization that was created, and that each club should send a representative to her “table” (another Sons’ affectation), in recognition of the fact that for all the disagreements the protestants had had with the Church, it was still, essentially, the First Church.  Putting Mary in the forefront of what they might do would keep alive that deep connection.

He reminded folks of what they knew about her, again given social media, and reminded them also of her Halloween picture of Gemma, which brought laughs.  Mary countered by reminding them of all the mistakes Gemma made and the troubles she caused.  In the end, a vote was demanded, and Mary was “elected” by acclamation. 

David, who had not been present, was not happy.  Oddly, he said what bothered him was that somehow this could get physically dangerous for her.  She shared his disquiet, but also could not provide a clear causal reason.  They talked off and on about this for several days, finally realizing that God had to have a hand in this sequence of events, and their real problem was their own fears of accepting a calling over which they might have very little control.

They went to Mass daily for awhile.  They talked to the priest of that parish, and to friends.  They shared the situation with some of the more stable of their “lost” boys.  A consensus developed that it was Mary who was being called, and that she therefore had to decide by herself.

Mary made her first decision as the head of the “table”, again following Jax Teller’s role in Sons.

They would rally as many as they could  - evangelical bikers, Catholic bikers, and even regular bikers.  They would go in mass, and together, to the next scheduled American meeting of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, who were in the process of deciding all kinds of matters as regards women in the Church, the treatment of gays, and other social issues.  Further, in accord with her and David’s appreciation of the situation as regards Bishops, they would just show up, in silence, with no protest signs, and not even respond to questions from the media.  They would gather socially in at a certain place and time, and even worship together.  Celebrate the Eucharist together, those that wanted to.

When they got there, and they found that they numbered several hundred, Mary then suggested a slightly different strategy as regards responding to the media.  Just say: “You are asking the wrong people the wrong questions.  Talk to the Bishops.  They are the ones out of touch with social reality.  If Jesus was here, which group do you think he would hang out with?”