BACK when I was 8 or 9 and wanted to be a nun, I would often stop at church on my way home from school. The school sat across the street from two churches: St. Joseph’s, which we called the French church, and Sacred Heart, which is where my family went. Sacred Heart was built by and for Italian immigrants, an odd pale stucco building in the midst of rundown mill houses. I would enter and let my eyes adjust from the bright afternoon light to the dim interior. The smell of incense and candles burning permeated everything, and I liked to stand still for a moment and breathe it in before I dipped my hand into the holy water in the marble aspersorium. My wet fingers made the sign of the cross as I made my slow, reverential way down the worn maroon carpet to the altar.