BIBLICAL POINT OF REFERENCE:
"Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways."
From the Convent
No. I thought to myself. No.
I couldn’t leave. This was my dream that I was living. This was the life I was called to live. I had been at the convent for six months, and I had rarely even considered leaving as an option. This was what I wanted. I wanted to be a nun. I was planning on staying till death.
Entering the convent was no whim of a decision. I had considered it repeatedly for many years. I truly believed that the Lord asked me to be a nun and He told me to specifically be a cloistered nun.
I found it such a beautiful way of life. I was living in the house of the Lord, gazing upon Him and contemplating Him as I had always wanted to do. I had endless time to pray. To pray for my loved ones, those who asked for it, and the rest of the world. The nuns were loving and joyful. Laughter was a common sound when sisters spoke to each other. They had intelligent conversations, but loved to joke as well. Whether it was a soft pat on my shoulder or a happy smile, they treated me as their new little sister.
The way of life became normal to me. I was learning how to cook and sew. I was learning how to serve the nuns their meals. I was learning how to pray a Catholic prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours. I was learning more about God and the way of life that a nun leads. I saw it all as a beautiful life.
Why then, was I thinking of leaving?
Despite how beautiful I thought the nuns' life was, there was something dreadfully wrong: I was not happy.
At first, I thought it was me simply adjusting to life within the cloister, for it was indeed a culture shock. Suddenly, there was no T.V., no cellphones or cars. I ate no meat and I showered only weekly, having to take sponge baths on the other days. Life was lived frugally and in poverty. I ate all the crumbs on the table, and I gathered with the nuns to pray for multiple hours. We chanted our prayers and had quiet time for mediation. I was taught the rule of life and I slowly got introduced into more and more aspects of the life. For example, singing in the choir, or preparing the tea in the morning.
It would make sense for anyone to feel strange under these circumstances, so different from the outside world. But even when I got used to these things, I was still unhappy.
Next, I thought it was homesickness. All of the nuns experienced homesickness at first. After all, each one of them said goodbye to their families and would rarely see them again, save a few short visits and the occasional letter. It was my first time away from home for over a week, and I had never before been separated from my family over major holidays. Christmas away from home was hard, and Easter was quickly approaching.
Surly homesickness was the reason for my unhappiness.
Eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that there was something more. Something deeper. Something that the other sisters had, despite their own homesickness and trials.
I was lacking joy. No matter how hard the life was, or how burdensome a problem was, the nuns would smile. Give it the death of a nun, or a flood in the convent, or the diagnosis of a disease, the nuns were still joyful. They trusted in God and praised Him amidst their trials, and found peace and joy.
Why then, did I not also have this joy?
My thoughts began to move so rapidly, I became dizzy. I was sad. Confused. Distressed. Why wasn’t I happy? I was doing what I’d always wanted to do! Where was the happiness that the nuns claimed to have? Why didn’t I have this happiness?
The answer came to me. Mother Abbess helped me discover this when I spoke with her about my unhappiness. If I was unhappy living this life, then perhaps God was calling me elsewhere.
Elsewhere! What did she mean, “elsewhere?” This was my plan; my dearest dream and hope. I never considered anything besides being a nun! I couldn’t go elsewhere!
That would mean returning to life in the outside, modern world. Things were not necessarily focused on God out there. The media would be everywhere and I would be forced to use technology. Instead of being surrounded by holy pictures and polite nuns, I would be immersed in a culture of sex, beauty, and pleasure.
Besides, this was my dream. Could I really let this dream of mine go? Could I really leave? More importantly, was God asking me to leave?
Yes, He was. I can tell you that clearly now. He was indeed. I told Jesus that I would stay until He told me to leave. To my surprise, I found that through my negative feelings and confusion, Jesus was telling me it was time to go.
So, I decided to return home.
Mother Abbess called my parents and surprised them with my request to come pick me up at the convent. I had seen my family only a few times since my entrance, and it was now six months since I began living the life of a nun.
My parents came immediately, the morning after Easter Sunday.
I was given back my secular clothes and I laid the veil and jumper aside. I departed from the nuns with a heavy heart, not wanting to leave my dreams behind with them. But then, I stepped out of the cloister and into my parents’ arms.
I sunk into their long embrace. It was a blessed feeling of relief to wrap my arms around my father; to kiss the cheek of my mother. I knew that despite my confusion, everything was going to be ok.
Yes, Jesus had told me to leave. I never expected it to be after such a short time, but I decided to trust Jesus’ judgment.
Your Laughing Sister,
Read Part 3 of From Covent to College: To College next week!