Category Archives: Nun-stuff

Rest in peace …

This past weekend we placed the ashes (“cremains” is the current term) of our dear Sr. Dominica in our columbarium. This happened at the conclusion of a joyous Requiem Eucharist, during which we sang a few of her favorite hymns and remembered her committed prayer life and amusing quirks.

The columbarium is a stone structure located behind what used to be the convent and part of the school. It’s a bit like a mini-condo, each “apartment” a small copper box faced with an engraved plaque.

“Sister Dominica, CHS – 1931 – 1972 – 2010”.  Her birth, profession and death etched in brass. She joins our other deceased sisters and our founder Mother Ruth back there. Over time the columbarium has been threatened by invasive plants, and Bill had a yeoman’s job of clearing the vines, unlocking the great iron door and cleaning all the little copper boxes, most of which are waiting for the rest of us.

We also had one of our wonderful bell-ringers there to toll her life in years (79) on the deep tenor bell. As we stood in the sun-dappled lawn, I realized that our many neighbors — if they have been listening to our bells over the years (and how can they help it) — would probably realize that one of us had passed into the greater presence of God; this is the only time this kind of ringing is heard from our eight bell, change-ringing tower.

May you rest in peace and rise in glory, our dear sister.


Clarity and focus

This was the view from my cell window (that would be “bedroom” to normal folk) tonight.  You probably can’t see it in this small shot (though if you click on the photo you’ll see the larger version), but the wind was rising from the west, up the hill, making the lower trees bend and quiver. That’s why they are so blurry while the closer trees are clear.

Isn’t that so much like life … just when I get crisp clarity in one area, another goes blurry on me.  Maybe that’s why the cross appears as a stabilizing feature.

For these and all your many blessings, we thank you, O God our wise Creator.

Darkness, hope and mystery


Advent, a time of contemplation and anticipation.

In the church calendar New Year occurs with the first Sunday of Advent.  But Advent II was two days ago, and now we’re rolling swiftly toward Advent III.  There are only four of them, so we’ve already zoomed past the half-way mark. Just like the rest of the year, liturgical time seems to have taken on its own sense of urgency, surging ahead with no regard for my own increasing need to move more sedately.

My brain, my bones, my very soul cry for slowing down. That’s what I’ve always expected to happen during Advent:  dragging, darkening days and nights, the will-it-ever-get-here anticipation of Christmas teasing me from the future. Yet now that I appreciate and actually desire these leading-up days, they pass with breathtaking speed.

I think there is something perversely wrong about this; shouldn’t time zoom along when you are six and drag with appreciated delay when you are sixty-two?

Well … never mind what I think might have been a better design; this is the one we have.

So my task — the invitation of Mystery itself — is to immerse myself in these racing days for just what they are: a brief time devoted to prophecy, anticipation, fear, trust, promise and hope (at least those) …

“Come O Holy One, and visit us in peace;
that we may joy before you with a perfect heart …”
[from the antiphon to the Nunc Dimittis, Advent season].

Annual Long Retreat

We are currently experiencing what we call “annual long retreat”, an eight-day period where the sisters maintain silence and a daily balance of prayer, meditation, reflection, spiritual reading and a bit of manual labor.

The extroverts of the world find this idea a challenge, but the introverts (which includes most, though certainly not all, nuns) love it. Besides my prayer and meditation, I usually include some kind of cleaning-out process. My closet (amazing how much can accumulate behind closed doors, even small ones) or dresser drawers are frequent targets, but this year I decided to tackle the rather alarming collection of paper I’ve acquired.

Since I pay the bills for the house, a certain amount of that collection can be chalked up to accounts payable, a perfectly respectable excuse. But all that paper is shipped off to the auditor in January and eventually comes to rest in community archives housed elsewhere.

Accounting’s not really the culprit, and I know it. I’ve managed to keep a lot of “files” way past their useful lives: paperwork from seminary classes I took years back, records from cars that died long ago, insurance notices, some ideas for a book called “The Ninety-Nine Names of God” that will never see the light of publication … in all, about four file drawers full of now-needless paper.

Cleaning out does a lot for me. I feel lighter, for one thing (yep, almost as if I’ve lost weight). It also earns me a humbling experience about surrounding myself with needless “stuff” — a sense that is heightened by realizing how carelessly I think about that “stuff”, whether it’s clothing or papers or miscellaneous doodads that seemed useful when I latched on to them. And the paper can be shredded and turned into fodder for the Ernies (our worm farmers), who will sensibly transform it into luscious compost for us.

I remember my friend who years ago lived in the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer. Upon arrival she was given a precious gift that no one living there either owned or needed: a wastebasket. Knowing Americans, they gave her a place to store the inevitable “waste” she would produce.

She learned a lot from her Philippina friends. By the time she left, I believe the wastebasket had become a flowerpot.

May new life bloom from my filing cabinet this week.