Stamped by an Angel

As I careen toward the end of yet another semester, I’m knee-deep in grading and thinking back on my grammar school days at Our Lady of Ransom Catholic School in Northeast Philadelphia where my teacher, Sister Joseph Denise, deftly employed rubber stamps to express her disappointment in my work.

More often than not, poor handwriting and a general air of disheveled malaise earned me the mark of the weeping angel:

Meanwhile, as far as I could tell, everyone else in the class was being inducted into the proud and honorable order of the happy angel:

While  the best I could possibly hope for was an outside shot at earning the angel of gradual and marginal improvement, who, it appears, was armed for no apparent reason with a whisk broom but didn’t have wings:

This, by the way, was the same class where I raised the question of whether the prayers of my classmates unwittingly helped criminals escape from the long arm of the law.

It was a very long year for everyone involved.


32 thoughts on “Stamped by an Angel

  1. A.M.AZ.I.N.G.

    Makes me wonder just how gard the good sister slammed that stamp onto your paper. This glimpse of another world — to me — is fascinating and a little scary. But it goes along nicely with what one of my roommates in college confessed to me. She was the product of 12 years of parochial school… Phila. suburbs .. and EVERY MORNING when she woke up she wondered if she’d gotten leprosy yet. Apparently the nuns told her (in kindergarten & 1st grade, I think) that because she was a “little chatterbox” she’d end up with leprosy and her lips would fall off.

    • I always confused lepers with leopards and wondered why Jesus didn’t just call on his feline friends to help out when the Roman soldiers came for him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He did heal them, after all. The least they could have done was watch the guy’s back!

  2. Hilarious!

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  3. I also went to Ransom and had Sister Joseph Denise. I remember her being really nice, but I must have been one of the kids who got the good stamps. Haha. I just found your site when I googled her name to see whatever happened to her.

    • Thanks for writing! You’re right… Sister Joseph Denise was very nice (and I heard that she had been a model before entering the convent!). Also, I was probably a handful. My handwriting and the sloppiness of my desk area definitely drew a lot of attention, and the stamps were certainly warranted!

  4. My mom told me she was pretty. I just remember her being young. My 6 year old brain dropped most of my specific memories over the years. I read a bunch of your blog yesterday and it was funny to see the name of an old friend pop up (Glenn Steiner)…references to the shamrocks and Ransom. It was a welcome blast from the past. Though it wasn’t always
    the easiest place to live, i remember growing up in the Northeast fondly. Anyway, Good luck with your writing.

  5. I am in the process of writing a piece that involves a “weeping angel” stamp and was amazed to discover that this is the only site that has what I was looking for. Just wanted to refresh my memory. It appears he was not really weeping, but as those little bullets of sweat indicate, was worried and fearful. Which is the way a lot of the Nun’s wanted you to be. (Notice not all, there were some cool nuns out there – mostly the younger ones.) Anyway thanks for the post

    • Thanks… I’ve actually acquired a few more angel stamps since writing that blog post, and in one of them, the angel is truly weeping (and not sweating). Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to post a photo yet.

  6. It just occurred to me that “cool” nuns may have been a bit of a stretch. “Nice” nuns is more appropriate.

  7. My errant son found this site and shared with me. He was the lucky winner of the most “crying angels” in our family and there was no way out of this contest. However, my daughter had the same nun a couple of years later and I was able to compare two exact lessons from a preprinted page and my son’s work was much better than hers. She got a happy angel!? Poor handwriting seemed to be students’ downfall in your column but in our school, the crying angels went mostly to the boys – if not all. We’ve laughed at crying angels over the years – hence the search for someone else to have suffered as much as he. Thanks for the memories. And, I’d love to get a set of the angel stamps for posterity.

    • I was lucky enough to inherit a set from my mom, who was a Catholic school teacher in the 1960s. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find for sale anywhere.

      • I, too, taught in a Catholic School in the late 60s and was not aware of the stamps at that time. Only became aware when my children brought papers home with those comical stamps. If you do become aware of any stamps for sale, please notify me. My son who was the recipient of the crying angel is now a teacher and would love to have the stamps – for posterity sake only – not to be used in the classroom. Thanks!

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