Their journey to Christ starts here, in the hallway of the old chapter house.
In the past, it seeemed that every month we stood, in neat serried ranks, greeting the new noviate, but now months, even years can go by before we are called together to watch a small clutch of women enter the convent for the first time.
The women are older now, not the young girls I remember from my own entrance into this hall way. We were all so young, faces shiny with holiness, turning our back on a world we knew nothing about anyway.
We had a calling, a vocation, they said – our parents, the priests, the very nuns who taught us in our remote way station schools.
We were the devout, the ones who made a full rosary every day, the ones who were moved to tears by the suffering at Gethsemene, the ones who, late at night, truly felt HIS spirit on us and if we didn’t, well, we grew accustomed to the attention, “she’s going to the Sisters” our classmates would murmur as we walked past, our faces innocent of make-up, our clothes, simple, modest, already emulating the habits we would wear later.
We came here, because it had been ordained and then, in due time, so were we.
A linear journey, convent school, to convent and another convent school – child, nun, teacher.
But these women, these new potential nuns, have had lives, known the world, I can see it in their faces, their clothes, the bags they carry.
Some, perhaps trying too hard, have fashioned their own version of a habit, long skirt, head covered, faces bare, they radiate a hungry desire to be here, to be what we are. Oddly enough, they often don’t last, the reality a million miles from their Black Narcisuss day dreams.
Others, adopt a mid point, somewhere between the convent and the world, clothes sensible, confortable, a little dowdy. They are the Marthas in training, busy, bustley. The women who, in 10 or 20 years, god willing, I will look at across the plain scribbed table and feel my fists clench with anger and have to push back an over-whelming urge to
punch, hard, in the face at the way they chew their cereal.
And then there are the others, still grasping onto the world. Fingernails and faces painted, tight jeans, high heels. These very heels almost drag along the ground as they try to resist this calling, fight against this plot line.
This is not what they were planning and having tried everything to silence HIS voice, here they will stay, at least for a little while.
An unsettling presence
And we, the Marthas will watch them nervously, tip toe round their firey faith, which seems not comforting at all, but something to fight against, something to make them gaunt, tired, burnt out.
We, secure in the rythmn of our day, secure in our place in the world, wait for the cycle to end, the natural order to restore and then we will, as tradition gives, watch their leaving, their return to their world.
Those who wanted this too much and those who won the fight against that tiny voice at night, it’s promises of being choosen.
And when they are gone, we easily absorb the one or two new faces, the daily order sucks us back in, soothes us, keeps the tiny doubts stilled, keeps us in this world.