Saturday, August 6, 2011

comfortable silence

My best friend is a cloistered nun.  We've covered that before, right?  She wasn't always a nun.  When I explain that I went to a monastery to visit my friend, people find that a little curious.  We went to high school together.  "Did you "know" then," they ask?  No, she was pretty much a "regular" person.  We ate pizza, saw movies (Return of the Jedi and Footloose come to mind), rode bikes, went swimming, worked on research papers, shared a tent, yakked on the phone, and went to CCD together. 

Even later, after college, she worked in NYC, and I visited her there when our family celebrated my grandparents' 50th Wedding Anniversary in New Jersey.  We went to the top of the Empire State Building and saw an off-Broadway play...Nunsense...maybe that was a "clue."  But she was in her 30's...after a variety of jobs and after living in a variety of places...when she heard God's call clearly enough to listen and follow.  She wasn't born wearing a veil or a habit.

 Can you guess who's who?  

One of the benefits of this for me, is that in recent years, I've been able to take a little time during the summer to visit her.  No matter where I am or what I am doing in my life, it is a [welcome] change of pace. 

I am able to stay "on site", which is pretty cool.  We meet a few times a day to visit for a few hours (that always go by pretty quickly).  Because they are "cloistered", we meet in a "parlor" each entering through a different door.  There is not grate or grille, as there was in years past, but still a barrier...kind of like a desk between us. 

My accommodations are fairly simple, but always comfortable, and always welcoming.  Everything that I need or want is right at my fingertips.  Including a plate of fresh brownies in the fridge! Part of the charm is that it is like taking a step back in time.

The phone in the next room!

 This greeted me upon a arrival.  Loved the welcome note from Sr. J.  
Doesn't the flowered glass just take you back to a simpler time?

Part of the "charm" is the scent.  
The incense, to be sure, but also the smell of the evergreen growing outside my room.  
I find myself breathing deeply.  
Here, the spiderweb growing in the evergreen captures the rain droplets. 

There is a schedule...a time for everything.
Morning prayer is at 5:30.
Mass, followed by prayer at 7:15.
Midday prayer at 11:50.
Evening prayer at 5:00.  
We visit at 2:00 and at 7:00.

I am free to participate in as much or as little as I choose.
Usually, I do most of it.  Why not?
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours with a group is not something I can do everyday.
The freedom to slow down, to not have to run here or do this
frees me to notice other things in life. 

The chapel is "empty" a good bit of the day, when the nuns are busy about other things.
And so I visited a couple of times a day.
This time, the Lord and I mostly sat in comfortable silence.
Neither one of us had much to say, as far as I could tell. 
But maybe after the craziness of this summer, He figured I needed a rest.
Just for the record...
a couple of  lovely naps were included in my time there...
and my friend and I did NOT sit in comfortable silence - we talked!

There is a basket under the altar that holds prayer intentions in preparation for an upcoming celebration.
Behind the altar are windows, opening onto a beautiful garden.
The gate that you see separates the sisters from others who come to worship at the chapel.
There are always birds, but I have little success in "capturing" them.  

 The deer, however, are not shy at all.  
They do not realize that in Louisiana, they would soon be a tasty addition to the dinner table.

The weather was wonderful.
I went a whole day without turning on my A/C.
(Quite the contrast to the 105 degree blast that greeted me at the Dallas airport yesterday.)
One night, I fell alseep with the windows open, listening to the sound of rain.
God always seems to paint a masterpiece for me on my last evening there.
And so, a wonderful end to a very busy where there seemed to be only limited time for even the Creator of the Universe.  It is back to work for me next week, and the year ahead promises to be a challenging one, with staff cutbacks and whatnot. But God is still the One in control of the world!  Can I get an Amen?

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