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From Convent to College: To the Convent



BIBLICAL POINT OF REFERENCE:

“When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.”

~John 10:4

To the Convent

“I’ll let you say your goodbyes,” Mother Abbess said, clasping her hands in front of her. She looked at each of my family members, her eyes aglow with tenderness. Mother Abbess left the room, leaving me alone with my family.

I turned to them. My mom, dad, and three sisters. They had made this journey here from Detroit, Michigan to Cleveland, Ohio. These were our last moments together before I would enter the convent.

We had all been preparing for this day. It was the dream I would tell my family about since I was in elementary school. What I had been planning for years: becoming a nun. To my great delight, I had been accepted by this community of nuns. Now that I had graduated from high school, I was ready at seventeen to pursue my dream.

These types of nuns are called cloistered. That means they stay in the convent and leave it only for the occasional doctor’s appointment. They scarcely see their families or have contact with the outside world, in order that they may live a life of prayer and contemplation of Jesus. It is a hidden life, in which they sacrifice all material goods, so they may serve God and pray for the world.

This was my calling. This was what I wanted to do. The Catholic Church was my passion. I loved to pray to God for hours a day, and I could scarcely wait to live a life dedicated to prayer. The nuns lived a simple life of adoring God, chanting psalms and celebrating the Holy Mass. Their work included cleaning, cooking, sewing, and other simple tasks. It sounded wonderful to me! I was fond of the idea of doing simple tasks for the greater glory of God. I was ready to give up everything, so that I may live radically for Jesus.

I had previously said goodbye to other relatives and friends, but now it was time for the hardest part: saying goodbye to my parents and sisters. I would not see them again until they would visit me after my first six weeks, and that visit would only last an hour.

The tears fell immediately. They had begun before we even entered the walls of the convent. My lunch turned to hard stone inside of my stomach as I focused on what I had to do. With a nervous confidence, I embraced each sister firmly. We exchanged murmured words of parting, which mingled with their cries.

Though my eyes watered slightly, I personally did not cry. I had never been one to get emotional. Besides, I could cry and dwell on what was happening later, but for now, I was following my call.

Releasing my sisters, I turned to my parents, falling into their embrace.

“Thank you,” I told them. And those two words meant so many things. Thank you for baptizing me and introducing me to the Roman Catholic Church. Thank you for loving me and giving me a wonderful childhood. Thank you for supporting me and letting me leave home so I may seek my beloved God within the walls of the convent.

Slowly, I drew back from their arms and said it was time for me to go. The nuns were waiting for me.

I walked to the door that separated the public part of the convent from the private, cloistered area. The door was wide open. On the public side, my family and I stood. On the cloistered side, the nuns lined up. Mother Abbess was at the front. Her smile was one of assurance that eased my nerves.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

Nodding, I went on my knees before the door, and was handed a slip of paper to read from. Loudly and clearly, I spoke the customary words, “Dear Reverend Mother Abbess and sisters, I humbly beg you to receive me into the enclosure.”

“Come, dear sister,” Mother Abbess said her part, taking my hands and helping me rise. Without looking back, my feet stepped inside the cloister and the doors shut behind me. The nuns received me with smiling faces.

The cries of my family echoed on the opposite side of the building.

Each nun embraced me individually and welcomed me. Then, they led me in a procession. Mother Abbess linked arms with me as we followed the procession of nuns into the private chapel.

After reciting some prayers in the chapel, I was taken deeper into the cloister. I took off my secular clothes and exchanged them for the white blouse, knee high socks, little white veil and black jumper, which one of the nuns had made for me in advance. I needed some assistance putting the veil on. As can be imagined, it took a little while to get used to.

Next, I was given a tour of the convent. The floors, chairs, desks and doors were all made of clean wood. It was simple, but beautiful and I had a lovely view of the inner gardens from my bedroom.

I was given many instructions about the schedule and how we prayed certain prayers. It was rather overwhelming and I quickly felt exhausted.

Eventually, I returned to the chapel to pray. I looked at Jesus, Who was exposed as what Catholics call the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is Jesus in the humble form of bread. “Jesus,” I said to Him, “I will stay here as long as You tell me. When You tell me to leave, I will. Even if that be the day I die.”

And that is what I expected. I expected to stay until the day I died.

Your Laughing Sister,

Jacqueline Rae

Read Part 2 of From Convent to College: From the Convent next week!


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