Betty Duffy

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flashback: A Nun's Life (1st Installment)

I am very close to giving birth, and rather than posting about my every contraction, I'm going to mine a little from my past. These are letters I retained from my year in a Lay Ecclesial Movement of the Catholic Church, living the life of a nun.

February 3, Clinton Era (To a friend from College):
And Corey once again rises out of the depths—that voice from beyond, always dissatisfied with something and yearning for nothing. And to whom does he send out this voice—not a plea, not even a comment, just a voice? He sends it to Betty, who is not really on page 37 of the Illinois visitor’s guide having Native American Laughter and fun in a short skirt with long flowing hair—though she is flattered Corey saw a resemblance between herself and said girl in short skirt.

Rather, she is wearing long skirts, and nylons and pumps to walk the secluded old hallways of a building occupied by 120 women. Her hair is chopped off above the ear like a blunt yew hedge, and today she is half asleep, and wishing her water did not taste like stale coffee because of the carafe in which it was served. And her prayers, alas, are a little bit dull like a grandma who takes a shower once a week and covers her odors with baby powder. But days like this happen. Maybe they are caused by New England winters, or hormones. And maybe they would pass by unnoticed if Corey did not occasionally rise out of the depths requesting an accounting.

This is 60 Austin Avenue, Mater Ecclesiae, the Economy of Salvation, where young ladies cross the threshold in jeans with a cigarette in their hands and come out (maybe) dignified, new, with iridescent skin, and a sorrowful joy in their hearts. They work hard doing things they hate, and remind themselves insistently that there are things they will do for Jesus that they wouldn’t do for a million dollars. And Betty lives here in the midst of this exaggerated, romantic, and unattractive description, not yet saintly, not unhappy, not quite authentic, and yet, the last time she ran away, this was her destination—so she must stay for awhile.

My daily life is lived very much like a nun. We work in the blocks of time between prayer which are dispersed throughout the day at 6:30 (Mass and morning meditation), 10:25 (spiritual reading), 12:20 (spiritual balance) 12:30 (invocations), 12:35 (latin hymns), 5:00 (rosary, evening prayers and Benediction), and 9:05 (night prayers, balance, and meditation). Silence begins at 9:05 and lasts until housework the next morning. All our meals are in silence while someone reads. We have conversation in the schedule for 10 minutes twice a day. We have exercise for one hour, during which we go to a secluded piney lake near our house and swim, sometimes after dark, so that no one sees us. Or we play Frisbee and basketball in our skirts. We ask permission to do anything that’s not on our schedule.

I find that the quality of life here varies with the state of our moods: you either feel liberated, and pure to the bone, and holy, or you feel selfish, constrained and like a prisoner, until you realize you can leave whenever you want, but you choose not to.

I’m sorry that you don’t like people. I know it’s hard and people are frustrating. Please let me know whenever you are in the mood for a sermon on universal charity and the discipline of abstaining from preferential friendships.



JenX67 said...

there should be a contest for best Catholic blogs. You'd win. There probably is a contest for that - I've read many blogs by Catholics. Many of them are suberb, but, your writing is glorious. Keep blogging, Betty. We love to hear your voice.

Kaighla said...

I have always wanted to live in a monastery, Catholic or otherwise, for a little while. But, I didn't know they would let people unless they were actually nuns! Too bad I have a kid now, or I would totally go and see if I can stay at one. I really love the whole idea of life being centered around prayer.

Betty Duffy said...

Even though you have a child, there are still a lot of retreats you could go on that would offer a similar taste of the life. Many monasteries and convents have guest quarters, and you are invited to participate in the prayers of the community. Whenever Dayo is old enough to be left for an overnight, you might check one out. Or you could go on a "mother's reatreat" where babes in arms are welcome guests.