Today’s posting is the last one I’ll write for this blog or my writing blog for the next several weeks. However, I plan, except for a few vacation days in July, to continue what I began yesterday: reading and commenting on your blogs.
Why relinquish posting until sometime in August?
Because I’m storied out. Writing, editing, and polishing stories about my life has lost some of its urgency for me. I’ve mulled and found meaning in so much of my early life and your comments have helped me put everything in context. Now I need to move on to the convent years again. So when I begin again—in August, I’ve let go of my first twenty-two years.
Instead, I’ll share with you my Scholastica years in the convent. That is, the three years—1960, ’61, and ’62—for which I made temporary vows. During those years, which are a tapestry of color woven with both dark and light thread, I began to teach.
Today’s posting will also be about the convent, specifically the recent sesquicentennial.
Five members, including myself, from our class of eighteen returned to the Mount for its celebration of being home in Kansas for 150 years. I didn’t get to visit at any length with any of them because the entire day and a half was taken up with meeting and greeting and hugging and laughing with so many nuns who are still in the convent and so many who have gone on to other lives.
We ate and prayed together and took tours of the cemetery—where so many friends of my youth are buried, nuns who taught me in college and enriched my life in the convent—and also the fourth floor of the monastery where we used to sleep in large dorms. Now these dorms have been converted into rooms for individual nuns along with recreation rooms for viewing movies and television.
One of the things I missed in the convent was stretching out on a couch or putting my feet on a hassock and snuggling down into the comfort of an easy chair. Now the fourth floor nuns have all of that: couches, easy chairs, hassocks. O joy in the morning!
So many changes: a large library, eating at whatever table one chooses, a nursing-home section that ranks as one of the top ten in the nation, talking in the halls, a cafeteria instead of a refectory with novices trundling in the food on carts and then later washing the dishes in the scullery. So many changes from the life I knew.
But one thing hasn’t changed: the hospitality of the Benedictine nuns. St. Benedict, some 1,500 years ago, wrote in his Rule that we are to welcome the stranger as we would Yeshua/Jesus. And so the nuns, who are steeped in graciousness, did all they could to embrace our return to roots.
I’m ending today’s posting with a poem about what being back at the Mount monastery was like. The poem, written by Sister Barbara Ann Mayer, OSB (Order of Saint Benedict), conveys the celebration much better than I can. She has spent more than fifty years as a nun and has witnessed many changes. One of these is that she can now pursue her love of writing. Barb’s poem captures the joy we all felt—both the nuns who have stayed at the Mount and those of us who have journeyed elsewhere.
We hugged, laughed, cried,
to see faces from long ago
etched with wrinkles and lines,
strong, intelligent women who
faced their uncertain future
with courage and hope. They
came to share their lives, their
stories, their memories, and
we felt blessed by their coming.
As they placed flowers at graves
of those they had loved, prayed
the psalms with joyful voices, we
felt a bond never really broken
by distance and time, a sister bond
of friendship that survived the years.
“It was like coming home,” one said,
“I feel like I left part of my heart here.”
Barbara Mayer, OSB
Have a lovely summer. I hope to see you back here in August. I’ll be visiting your blogs in the days and weeks ahead. Peace.
PS: The Mount has published Shadowboxing, Sister Barbara Ann Mayer’s first book of poems, and it is available at the monastery gift shop. Please click here if you’d like to contact the gift shop about Barbara’s poetry or about other books written by the nuns as well as their crafts—from iconography to embroidered tablecloths to place mats to pottery.
All the photographs are from the Mount web site. They are used with the permission of the prioress, Sister Anne Shepherd, OSB. Click here for the web site.