Saturday, November 19, 2011

Invited into Oneness

In preparation for the story of my taking first vows, I’d like to reprint four postings that may have been written before you began reading this blog. The first of them explains what led up to my entering the convent. The other three present general information about life in the novitiate. 
             You’ve now read several stories specific to the novitiate. I hope these “old” postings will put the specific ones in context.
            Following these four reprints,  I plan to end my novitiate postings with the taking of first vows. After that, I’ll post stories about my growing up, my growing older, and my coming home to myself. I'll  intersperse these with stories about my life as a scholastic and as a professed nun.  Today, let's begin our countdown to the five vows I took on January 1, 1960.

The convent I entered has stood high on a hill in a river town for nearly one hundred and fifty years. When I mention this convent, strangers often ask, “Why’d you enter?”  “Why’d you leave?” “Why’d you stay so long?” “Did you ever laugh?” “What was it like?” “Do you miss it?” “Are you sorry you entered?” “Are you sorry you left?”
            Those last two questions are easy to answer: I neither regret entering, nor leaving. The others require explanation that will come in future postings. Today, let’s talk about why I entered.
            My family never encouraged me to think about entering. Nor in sixteen years of Catholic schooling had I ever felt drawn to a nun’s life. Their habit looked hot for summer wear. Their shoes old-maidish. Convents had no sofas or easy chairs. No going barefoot. Always being in the company of another nun when leaving the grounds.
            It seemed to me—when I thought of that life at all—to be too much togetherness and no coziness. No comfort.
            I was used to my own creek and spending long summer days there. Listening to the stream’s burble. Dangling barefoot toes in water cascading over strewn rocks. Feeling the sun’s warmth on my eyelids. I liked leisure. It seemed to me that nuns had none.
            On April 10, 1957, the college students elected me student body president. I was a junior, majoring in English and minoring in mathematics, history, and philosophy. On that April day, all the supposed negatives of convent life became as nothing to me. I had, some would say, a transcendent experience.
            I came into the math class that day ready for differentials. I sat down, opened my textbook, and settled my mind on increments.
            Suddenly I knew Light. It inundated the spaces between my pores. Light within light. Above me. Below me. Before me. Behind me. Within me. Through me. 
            Yet there was no me, only Oneness. I was one within Light. Light was one within me. We two became One.
            I may have breathed during those fifty class minutes, but breath wasn’t necessary. Lost in Light, I felt no passage of time. It lost itself in Now. Nowness dwelt within and about me. Nowness became All within All.
            The next thing I knew was a tap on my shoulder. A voice saying, “Dee, are you all right?” Then the tap became a shaking. The voice more urgent. “Dee? Dee? Are you okay?”
            It was then I breathed. A shudder. I emerged into the day slowly as if from deep sleep. All movement, all moment had stilled within me. I had no desire to regain momentum. I welcomed timeless silence.
            Her voice persisted.  My eyes focused and I saw my friend’s concerned face. Awareness pressed upon me. I was in a math classroom. I was a junior in college. It was the 10th of April. 1957. Wednesday.
            Yet all had changed.  
            As we walked down the hall, Barb asked, “Dee, do you need to go to the infirmary? Your face’s flushed.” I assured her all was well. I needed only to walk on the campus and find breath again.
            My senses seemed finely tuned. The shimmer of sun on tulip yellow. The richness of pine-scented loam. The sough of wind riffling ginkgo leaves. And on my lips the taste of gratitude. “Thank you. Thank you for Mystery.”
            The next day I asked Sister Imogen, the college dean, what I needed to do to enter the convent that stood next to the college.            
            A year later, after graduation, I entered. Giddy, I walked with the other eighteen postulants into the refectory. There I witnessed the beaming faces of novices and scholastics. I wanted to shout, “I’m here! I’m home!” The Light shone bright within me. I felt beautiful that day. I knew Joy.
                                                            (To be continued on Tuesday . . .)

The photo is from the following site:


  1. Is that what the mystics called a moment of Grace? Never having experienced anything like that, I could not be sure, but your description of being transported into Oneness has been described by others I've read about. How amazing... I look forward to reading more.

  2. I often wondered what pushes people to a life of a nun. I figured some spiritual involvement but often wondered if these same people had a life of solitude before. Thank you for clarifying and thank you for your comments the last couple of days. As you know those were hard post to write. Your words meant so much to me. :)

  3. What a profoundly mystical experience, Dee! It certainly seems to have been a life altering moment for you, but everyone who has experience of 'The Light' has felt drawn to a different way of being, from what I understand. Your sharing of this momentous experience is beautiful. I also loved your description of comfort and the special oneness you felt with your creek. What a magical, restful place that seems to have been...your own grounding space! Big hug xoxo

  4. A beautifully-written and moving account, Dee. Thank you for sharing that life-changing moment of revelation with us. No wonder you entered after that.

  5. Dear Dee,
    So beautifully told. You are a story teller who commands attention.
    I really believe your light was a true calling and you followed the promise.
    Since we are close to the same vintage, I understand the yearning and I'm also taking the "times" and what was expected of us then. At that age, I had dark, stormy moments, I had raw yearnings for something to satisfy my soul, be it the unrequited adulation of a troubadour or wandering the world in a saffron robe with my beggars bowl. I wanted to make a difference in the world, I wanted to save, I longed to be one with God. Now, as I look back at it, it was hormones, perhaps out of whack.
    Now I realize we all serve and in different ways. Mine was to raise 4 honest kids who are not a burden on society. But, truthfully Dee, I now often think I'd still like to have a try at the saffron robe and the beggars bowl. :)
    El Mucho love

  6. How wonderful to experience such joy, Dee. I know there is more to the story, which will unfold as time goes on, but, that instant of joy. How many people never experience it, or recognize it when they do? '

    You write of your April day as if it were so fresh in your mind. As if it were yesterday. What a wonderful gift of words you have.

  7. Beautifully written. I have never had an experience like that and can imagine it was quite mystical.

  8. So aesthetic affronts in your writing ;o. Truly, I cannot imagine a calling like that, but you tell it so well that I almost can...

  9. What an amazing experience. This is inspiring, and written so well, I felt as if I rested in the light with you. Thank you!

  10. As you know from my letters, I've been trying to understand why you entered the convent & what you felt while you were there. This post explained a lot--& beautifully.

  11. I'm so glad you have decided to share the "beginning" with us. You truly encountered Mystery and it set your life on a devoted path. I am really eager to hear more. I think that your whole life has been a true calling and as I read your wonderful posts I think of you as a teacher. I'll be looking forward to Tuesday! Debra

  12. It is difficult to explain the sensation of being nothing and everything simultaneously. Beautifully done. I look forward to revisiting your stories with the reposts. :):)

  13. Gracious, Dee: a truly mystical experience. I am in awe: I have read about them in books but never heard a first hand account. Thank you for sharing it.

  14. What a beautiful way of describing revelation of your destiny. Loved it.

  15. I have read a description similar to this one before about various saints. Don't worry, i do not think you are a saint. I wonder what it is that happens to susceptible people at a time like this. I don't suppose there is an explanation.

  16. You write so beautifully, Dee! I really felt caught up in your moment of grace and revelation!

  17. Sorry I'm just now catching up on your posts. As always, I like to have uninterrupted time to read them. What a precious moment you had! And you remember it so vividly.