Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why I Would Never Have Made it in a Convent

Although we have not discussed the topic in some months, there was a point when Rebecca told me she did not object if I shared her discernment of a vocation with those close to us who would be supportive.  We both thought it would be a good idea to tell our pastor, privately of course, so that he could both pray for her and perhaps put her in touch with those who could answer some questions.

A few months back, Father introduced us to someone who has an intimate knowledge of women's monastic life.  Much food for thought was provided, and the subject of living in community was raised more than once.

I think for those of us who are married and, in my case, have jobs we do only because we have to and not out of any real love for our work, there is a temptation to daydream a bit about cloistered life.  I often think about what a respite it would be for me to live in a house that didn't have a television blaring from dawn until bedtime, dogs barking, kids bickering, the phone ringing, etc etc.  Then I remember that you are never totally alone with God in a monastery, unless perhaps you are a Carthusian monk.  Your meals are taken in community.  A good deal of your prayer life and your work is performed with others.  Recreation periods are  taken in common with others.  Decisions affecting the community, from how Mass will be celebrated to how Sunday recreational periods will be spent,  are often made by vote.  If you don't like a decision that was made, it's not like you're excused and get to stay in your cell by yourself.  You, too, are expected to participate in whatever exercises the community does.  And just because you may not like it doesn't mean you can sit there and sulk about it in protest.

How would I fare in such a house when I am so frequently annoyed by people who sit too close to me at Mass, sucking their teeth or breathing too loudly; people  who talk too much to me at work;  people who keep me too long on the phone; people  who pester me when I'd rather be left alone?  Just because a man or woman joins a monastic community doesn't mean they stop having irksome habits. At least I get to change venues, from home to work and work to home.  No such opportunity exists when you are walled in with God.

Even St. Therese was sorely tried by another sister who clacked and fidgeted with her Rosary in choir. I think we have safely established that though I dearly love her, I am no Therese.

"Heaven protect us from stupid nuns!" said St. Teresa of Avila.   I imagine that would have been her reaction to me had I presented myself at her monastery.

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