The Nun’s Story

Writers’ Trigger:

For years, I’ve started my morning with a cup (or two or three) of coffee and Garrison Keillor’s voice – soothing away the ragged edges of a restless night. Garrison’s voice comes to me by way of the Internet: The Writers Almanac newsletter@americanpublicmedia.org.

This morning’s prompt comes from “Dec. 26” a poem Garrison read on… you guessed it… Dec. 26. The poet was Kenn Nesbitt; the poem was originally published in The Aliens Have Landed at Our School.

The poem begins: “A BB gun. / A model plane. / A basketball. / A ‘lecertic train…

The child’s voice goes on to list a total of 12 toys. The boy ends with “So that’s my list / of everything / that Santa Claus / forgot to bring.”

I love this poem. The straight forward list of particular items rings true. It takes me back to my own children when they were young and computers were new. Sitting at the computer, the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog to one side, the children listed every toy they wanted. The list not only gave the item, but also detailed (for Santa’s convenience in neat columns) the page number and the price. How thoughtful!

  • Tap into your childhood. Write about a Christmas disappointment. You wanted something in particular. What did you fail to receive? Use your child’s voice.
  • If this holiday has been disappointing, this is a good time to whine about contemporary disappointments. Whine like a child. Get it out of your system and get ready for the New Year with a lighter heart. 

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What would I ever do without NPR? On Dec. 22, All Things Considered ran a piece titled: “For These Young Nuns, Habits Are the New Radical.” Everyone knows that nuns and priests are declining in number, but this was a story of a religious order that is bucking the trend.

 

The Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee has attracted 90 novitiates to its convent in the last five years and the average age of the new entrants is 23! Amazing! Imagine in this day and age, the attraction of white habits, prayer, teaching, and silence.

Could it be that the pace of modern life has pushed these women to re-think the quality of their lives? I know that when I am driving 70 mph down the highway, when I am cursing my bad luck to have forgotten my cell phone, the thank you letters, and my grocery list, entering a convent looks pretty attractive. Silence is a big draw.

According to the feature article, these women are not stars-in-your-eyes girls; rather, they are grounded young women. One 27-year-old nun was a basketball player/graduate of Notre Dame. Before starting law school, she went to Africa where she worked with refugees. That experience changed her trajectory.

Speaking of her decision to forego law school and join The Dominican Sisters, she said, “When I came back to the U.S., I saw our true poverty of the heart and the mind.”

I like this story: it’s a reminder that as the wheel turns, we have an opportunity to re-think poverty in a supposed place of plenty.

I close with a recent submission to 52250flash. The week’s topic was ‘Urban Convert.’

 

“City Lights”

 Mary had dressed carefully. No curls, no lipstick, no eye shadow. Her skirt fell below her knees. She remembered not cross her legs.

The Mother Superior scanned Mary’s application. “I see you were raised Lutheran, and you are a recent convert to Catholicism. What attracted you to our faith?”

“No Catholics lived in our town. Everyone was Lutheran. We had this little clapboard church. In the winter, the church was cold. We had only six or seven in the choir and one of them could sing and very hymn had six verses. There was no joy… no mystery. And then several years ago, I saw The Nun’s Story on TV and realized that I should have been born Catholic.”

Mother Superior’s face registered no response. “You would like to be a novitiate, but what draws you to the vocation?”

Mary had known this question was coming. There was the expected answer (living a life of faith, devotion, and service) and there was the real answer.

The real answer had to do with the isolation of living on a farm in North Dakota.  Mary wanted to move to the city. She wanted a Gothic church and a professional choir. She wanted incense, confession, kneelers, dusky light, and priestly celibacy. She dreamed of a costume romance: the seductiveness of a nun’s habit.

When Mary answered, “I want to live in the city and serve the poor,” Mother Superior rose. Crossing herself, she said, “Good luck and good day.”

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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