The convent words I use in my stories may be unfamiliar to you. So periodically we’ll explore the life I entered and lived for almost nine years—a life that differs there today.
For the first six months, I was called a postulant. During that time, I wore black lisle hose and oxfords, a pleated black skirt that fell a little below my knobby knees, a long-sleeved black blouse, a white-collared black cape that fell to my thin wrists, and a black veil sewn to a comb anchored in my flyaway hair.
As a postulant, I lived in the novitiate. A paved road separated this rectangular, two-story, brick building from the main convent where the scholastics and professed nuns lived. I attended classes on the first floor of the novitiate; in the office of the Novice Mistress I made culpa. That is, I admitted some flaw or fault—like losing a straight pin or talking while doing dishes.
I slept in one of the second-story dorms of the novitiate. The rule allowed no speaking in these dorms or in the halls and bathrooms. Both day and night, I practiced custody of the eyes by not staring at whatever or whomever I passed. The hope was that by doing so, I’d center my mind on spiritual things.
Each morning, a bell summoned me to the choir chapel. During the remainder of the day it announced meals, classes, prayer, and recreation. In the evening it rang for Compline, the final prayer of the day. Afterward, the other seventeen postulants, the sixteen novices, and I returned—in silence and in single file—to the novitiate.
There, we each filled a basin with water and set it on our bureau. All this was done with soundless motion. Then we climbed into bed, and the Novice Mistress turned off the light. During the summer all of us were asleep before the sun set.
The next morning the routine began again. The bell rang. We drew the curtains around our beds, washed in the basin’s water, emptied it, donned our clothes, and began the day.
My life was one of obedience steeped in prayer, work, and silence. Living in that convent, I knew moments of rich laughter and profound joy. I also knew hours of doubt and loneliness.