Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Bells of Temptation
I've discovered that there is still a bit of mischevious child in me somewhere, for every single day I had to curb a certain temptation.
In my previous post I mentioned the bells that are rung at regular intervals at the convent.
They are rung for rising, ten minutes before Mass, prayer, and meals, and at 10 pm lights out. They are loud, they are obnoxious, and apparently, one just gets used to them. Once one peels oneself off the ceiling a certain number of times, at least. I think I have a permanent tile imprint on my face from my week there.
One of the bells is actually a small one immediately outside the Novitiate. If a Professed Sister wants to speak with someone, whether a Novice or with the Novice Director, she comes to the Novitiate and rings the bell. That same bell is used for other random purposes determined by situation as well.
Every time I passed it, I had a mad desire to reach out and ring it, suppressed only by hurrying past in order not to allow that temptation to fully emerge. I'm not sure I could contain it. My fingers were just ITCHING to tag that little chain, ring, the bell and dash away to feign innocence.
The big bells that are rung for the whole house, though, are near the main entrance and I thank God for the mercy of not having to pass those ropes very often. There was a sign near them indicating the ropes should be pulled "GENTLY!", and every time I passed, I wanted to do nothing more than to reach out, take a rope in each hand and ring the bells with all my heart and soul!
It is a mercy of God that each time I passed, I had something in my hands that made it impossible for me to follow through on that particular temptation.
Somehow, in spite of this, I did manage to behave myself.
Life in the convent is full of surprises. There were random moments of humor, just as there is everywhere else, and random moments of connections one would never expect.
One of the Sisters in the Novitiate is from Canada, and I'm not sure how it came up, but at lunch she was making a comment to the Novice Director about a Canadian show about duct tape. Of course I couldn't help myself and chimed in about the "Red Green Show". This was followed by quoting the Man Prayer: "Dear God. I am a man. But I can change, if I have to. I guess. Amen."
Sister looked over at me, calmly surprised and said in a trademark Canadian manner, "I feel so close to you now!"
Ah. All it takes is a little Duct Tape, WD40, and Red Green to bring Americans and Canadians together. Don'cha' know, Eh?
Sunday was an interesting day. There's not a lot of work on Sunday and meals are planned such that preparation and cleanup are as minimal as possible. So it was that after morning Mass/prayer/meditation I went into the bakery to fill the sink and rinse pan. Sr. H. didn't have an apron on so I followed suit, thinking that if all I was going to do was run water there was no need.
So I reached into the lower cabinet for the bleach and began to pour it into the measuring cup, but apparently I was either clumsy or too hurried. The bleach splashed. Initially I looked and thought the splash had remained in the sink, then realized...it hadn't.
I was wearing a black top and my "nice" skirt, and the bleach had bled through. Although I rinsed it out, it was too late. Sr. H. ran to find a permanent marker and pulled a towel out to help me dry my clothing and color it black again, to no avail.
It seemed such happenings weren't done. Back in the Novitiate, during breakfast we learned that Sr. A.J. had spilled orange juice all over her scapular and before our very eyes Sr. J dropped honey in her lap.
I suspected maybe the Sisters were really, in their charity, just trying to make me feel better about bleaching myself!
Random other stuff:
When I arrived, I learned there was a Carmelite Nun there to discern a possible call to active life. This particular community has many devotions, and so St. Therese of Lisieux graces many corners, nooks and crannies. So it was that as I moved down the shadowed corridors, I was always startled to see the Carmelite habit moving among the black-and-white ones.
Had a statue of St. Therese come to life? I checked the corners to be sure the statues were still in place. But no, it was only Sr. JM on her way to prayer (and what a dear she is!)
One evening, during recreation we headed down to the basement to help move furniture and other things so that the floor could be painted. Mother decided it was also a good time to move old carpet rolls, so two Sisters stood on the storage platform to drag the carpet rolls over to us and we piled them up for further inspection.
Suddenly Sr. H. began screaming, at first unintelligably. I stood back, thinking that by her screams and her frozen posture that there must be a really huge spider on her. I was ready to flee!
Then I realized that she was screaming about a mouse, and couldn't move because the "step" had been taken away, and she didn't initially relalize that said mouse was very, very deceased.
The mouse was no more.
So the Sisters found a box and managed to scrape the contorted petrified mouse into it, while Mother asked us to keep our voices down, for Sister A.J. in the other room was deathly phobic of mice and did NOT need to know one had been found, dead or not!
Sr. H. is going to be teaching next year so I went with her to help her move some things to her new convent and school. While there, of course I met the Mother Superior of that convent, who is also the school principal.
We sat in the parlor chatting, and one of the Sisters, a seasoned teacher, asked me if I had my teaching degree.
"No. I have a degree in Criminal Justice."
After a startled pause, she and the other Sisters burst out laughing. "It's the same thing!"
Murder in the Convent
On my last evening there, Sr. H. and I were in the bakery decorating a cake for another Sister's birthday. We colored frosting and as I was putting the dye away, the red dye was apparently leaking. I picked it up and saw that it was all over the counter. While trying to clean it up I realized it was STILL leaking and I'd left a trail!
It was looking gorier and gorier. And we BOTH had red dye all over our hands!
I began to intone a story about murder in the convent...
But I couldn't cast an albino Opus Dei Nun so it just didn't work.
I can say, though, that it happened in the bakery at the hands of the Sister using a spoon.
On Wednesday whenI left, many of the Sisters gathered to see me off, making it no secret that they wanted me to come back, and soon!
It was hard to leave them, for I do really love the Sisters and am so grateful for their help over the time I was there. I don't know if I'll see them again or not...it's all up to God and what He desires. And...what I desire, I guess.
It was a bit humorous, though, HOW we left. The Sisters had loaded my luggage into the van, and as Sr. J. and I headed off for the Train station, we were SUPPOSED to make a right around the convent and exit onto the street.
Nope. Some workmen had the street blocked. So she backed up to turn around, making another pass behind the convent. The Sisters had mostly left, but when they saw we were returning, they returned as well. I commented to Sr. J. that they probably thought I'd decided to stay!
She opened the windows as we returned to our point of origin, and Sr. MG said through my window, "You've decided to stay!" And through Sr. J's window, Mother K. asked me, "Are you SURE you don't want your measurements taken TODAY?"
So we took leave again, and Sr., leaving by the other driveway, took a left so we passed a third time in front of the Convent on our way out of town.
Then she realized she was going the wrong way, apologized, and turned around, explaining she needed to take the freeway. At the time we were praying the traditional prayers for safe travel, and passed by the convent YET AGAIN.
I was trying to contain my giggles, but somewhere around the 5th Our Father, laughter burst forth and I asked Sr. J. if perhaps we should pass by the convent yet ANOTHER time just for good measure??
As it was, I did make it to New London to catch my train, and I saw the Atlantic for the first time. Ironic. I once thought I would enlist in the Coast Guard, and en route to the train station we passed the Coast Guard Academy...and what beautiful grounds!
Now my life is complete. Once an aspiring Coastie...now a potential Sister/Nun.
At least I've seen the oceans.