Several people have inquired how life in the monastery is going for me. For those of you who didn’t read past threads, I am a twenty-three year old Catholic lesbian who is discerning life as a Benedictine nun. Right now, I am living in a monastery to try on the life. I moved in on June 21, some of July and all of August away to help out my sister and BIL with the birth and first month of life for my niece (she’s the cutest baby ever). I returned just before Labor Day and have been there since. It is a wonderful, but busy life.
A weekday for me begins at five in the morning. I get dressed and drink tea in my bedroom until six, when Morning Prayer begins. We pray the Liturgy of the Hours together in the morning, noon, and evening. Morning Prayer lasts about half an hour. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it includes the Eucharist. On Wednesdays, it is immediately followed by Mass. Silence (outside of prayer) is kept in the morning until the breakfast bell rings, so after prayer most people gather in the living room and relax in a recliner in silence while we wait for the breakfast cook to finish and the table waiter (both breakfast cook and table waiter are jobs that are rotated throughout the community) to set out the meal. Weekday breakfast is usually oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, and prunes that you can add yourself, eggs, bagels, toast, and cereal.
After breakfast, I head across the lawn to the K-8 school that the community started years ago. I teach one class of eighth grade pre-algebra there. The school is an itty-bitty Catholic school. There is only one class per grade and a maximum class size of 22 students. I have all of the eighth grade pre-algebra students, which adds up to a grand total of three girls. They’re wonderful young women and, from an educator’s perspective, it’s great to have just the three of them because it lets me give them the personalized attention they need while still allowing for peer interaction in class.
After class, I usually have a couple of free hours. I generally use that time to nap or rest; I’m still not quite use to getting up at five in the morning. When I’m feeling more industrious, I’ll use it to clean my room or do laundry.
Midday prayer is at noon and only lasts about fifteen minutes. After that, it’s time for lunch, which always consists of a soup, a salad, and some sort of main dish, usually something in the sandwich family. Today we had cream of asparagus soup and hamburgers. If there are leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, that might make it to lunch as well. There is also always a dessert, sometimes fruit and sometimes stuff like cake or cookies.
After lunch I usually have more free time. Sometimes, this might get used for a nap too, but it’s also when I run any errands that might need done. Some of my free time is also spent doing charges. There is a charge list that has all of the chores of the community on it, things like breakfast cook, table waiter, dish crew, portress, etc. Portress, so far, is my least favorite charge. The portress sits at the desk in the front office for shifts of three hours. She’s the one who directs visitors where to go. The part I don’t like is answering the phone and paging people. It’s getting easier each time I do it, but I still don’t completely have the phone system down. There’s still the fear that some important call will come in and I won’t have a clue what to do with it.
Dinner is at 5:30 each day. It is usually a salad, bread, two vegetables, a main dish, and plain chicken pieces. The chicken is there because the Rule of Benedict states “that every table have two cooked dishes on account of individual infirmities, so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one may make his meal of the other”. Some of the older sisters have delicate digestive systems and eat the plain chicken most nights. Exceptions to this meal pattern is on Thursdays, when we have soup (two kinds!) and bread to remind us to pray for vocations to the community, and Fridays when we have fish. There’s also dessert each night, similar to what we have at lunch.
Evening prayer is at 6:30 and lasts about half an hour. After evening prayer, some of the sisters go on their own to have quiet time before bed and others hang out in the living room and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Jeopardy is huge with the nuns. It reminds me of being at my grandparents house.
Several evenings a week, tonight included, I have to skip dinner and evening prayer with the community. One of their ministries is a transitional home for women and children and I work there part time. My job is mostly secretarial type stuff. It’s pretty boring and, in actuality, involves a lot of internet surfing. The bummer part of it is that I don’t leave until ten at night. Before coming here, that wouldn’t seem so bad, but by the time I take my shower, and get settled into bed for the evening, it is usually almost eleven. I’m used to a full eight hours of sleep. Falling asleep at eleven makes five o’clock come awfully quick, hence the nap times scheduled into my day.
I’m enjoying the life and really think it is for me, but, as with any life, there are some hard parts. I’m the youngest person in the community and some days I feel that more than others. The person closest to me in age is nine years older than me and I’m pretty sure that she feels every one of those nine years. I hope I understand that better when I’m thirty-two. The next oldest people are in their mid-forties. It just keeps going up from there. For the most part, this isn’t an issue. Most of the members of the community treat me like they would any other adult. There are a few who treat me more like a child than an adult, but I have a feeling that might say more about them than it does about me. It is rough sometimes though not having someone in my peer group to talk to. I’ve found myself calling one of my sisters (sister as in someone who has the same parents as I do, not religious sister) more than I used to and I wonder if that might be a result of feeling that lack of people close to me in age.
The other thing I’m having trouble with, which surprises the heck out of me, is figuring out what it means to be a lesbian in discernment. Being gay is a pretty small part of who I am, but it is still part of who I am and isn’t something I necessarily want to hide. I spent all of college out and I feel like I somehow ended up in the closet again, which is a bit bizarre feeling. The community as a whole isn’t concerned about sexual orientation. It came up during my interview for the live-in program; it isn’t an issue. I don’t think it would be an issue for the sisters as individuals either. It’s just two parts of who I am that I’m trying to find a balance with. The fact that it’s something on my mind is still surprising to me, so I’m probably not even verbalizing my thoughts on the subject very well.
So those are the downsides. The upsides? Absolutely everything else. I’m in love with the life. I’m surrounded by people that I love and who love me and who love God. It’s a wonderful life. It isn’t perfect, but I think it might be perfect for me.
So, there’s my crazy long update. I’m open to questions. I may not answer them if they’re too personal, but I like to talk about myself, so most questions will probably get answered.