Monday, June 08, 2009

Losing the roomie to a good cause

I wanted to write about all the fun stuff that went down last weekend, but I was too busy this week and now there's something more momentous to blog. My roommate Mery (the older person in this picture) went off today to be a nun! It's been in the works for a long time (in fact I visited the place with her more than a year ago) and finally two months ago everything was ready and she was told she could enter Corpus Christi Monastery as a postulant today, June 8.

For weeks she worked on getting rid of all her stuff (quite a job for an American) and she sent off the last of it with friends last night in the final packing blitz. Six of us feasted on Indonesian food until midnight in our much emptier apartment, and I finally got to bed around 1 AM. At four I was up again, so I had three hours' sleep. Mery had two. We both got to church for the 4:30 AM Mass that Fr. Ed and Fr. Larry said for Mery. There were about twenty people there to pray for her and see her off. After the Mass we milled about and said goodbye, and then Mery took off with Yoka and Annette, two friends who were hopefully more well-rested than she. Their plan was to drive the seven hours to the monastery, leave Mery there, hand over her car to her sister, and fly home. It's currently about 4:30 PM, so I suppose Mery's dressed in a postulant jumper by now. :)

Last night Mery and I were both feeling the weirdness of it all. Walking through our apartment complex to the familiar little two-bedroom place that's been home for a year, we knew that if all goes well, she'll never return to it or to this area at all. Once in the convent, she might leave for a few summers of classes at the order's house of studies in Washington, D.C., since the Dominicans are big on study and even cloistered nuns might go out for that. But otherwise the nuns don't leave unless they have to-- medical necessity, or a dying relative, or jury duty (I wonder if they ever get on a trial?)

There's no knowing sometimes if you're really called to be a lifelong nun till you've tried it. One girl in our church left for a convent not long ago and was back within a month or two. I know people who were apparently led to enter somewhere just for a season and leave before final vows. That doesn't necessarily mean a mistake was made; it might have been God's will for them to experience religious life to better form them for whatever else lay ahead. Maria von Trapp is a nice example of that (true story and not just a movie!) But obviously Mery's hoping this is a permanent move and she'll never have to leave. It's a six-month postulancy and a two-year novitiate, and eight years total before perpetual vows. If you're the praying type, please pray for her discernment.

Last weekend a big group of us friends went to San Francisco for an ordination and Sacramento for the 25th aniversary of an ordination, so while we were in the area we stopped by Mery's convent in Menlo Park. Here she is chatting with Sister Mary Assumpta, the new prioress:

Suddenly she found herself being measured for a postulant uniform by the extern sister.

Louise met us there as well. I don't think she realizes she's about to get measured too. :) She did the aspirancy with Mery back in November 2007 and she's going to enter as a postulant herself in two months. The convent has been a bit top-heavy, with lots of older sisters, but now they're getting some younger vocations.

I don't know if I've quite realized yet that I won't be seeing Mery around here any more. But I do plan to head up to Menlo Park and visit her when I can, and I can write to her. No email for a few years, though; the internet is curtailed at least during the novitiate. I'm actually happy about that, because I love the art of old-school snail mail, and I haven't really found anyone who's interested in it since email hit the big time. :)

Here's a picture of our visit a year ago. Louise met us then, too; she and Mery are on the left. We were eating breakfast with some of the nuns, who gathered on the cloister side of the big visiting parlor. One distinguishing feature of Corpus Christi Monastery is that the nuns' meals are very good. Mery was hoping to make it up there by lunchtime today, and who could blame her? :)

Well, that's such a worldly note to end the post on that I shall piously add: please pray for Mery and Louise. :)


JimAroo said...

The 4:30 AM Mass and the brief gathering outside all seemed to have a feeling that Mery had already left us....she wasn't ours but had joined that other world. She would still pray for us. We would pray for her but she had already boarded the ship at the Grey Havens.

It is not the same as seeing someone off to college or a farewell to someone moving away. It almost felt as if there were a thickening mist between her and myself.

Praise God that there are those who will pray for sinful and errant mankind and especially pray for those who will not pray for themselves.

Randy said...

Great for her. I do think it would be hard for friends and family of a cloistered nun. I guess I can understand nuns who serve the poor or teach the faith or whatever. You can see their work product and they do amazing things. But spending a life in a convent to produce fruits that area completely invisible. I can see the nun herself might know herself what she is doing is worth it. But their loved ones might find it hard to connect with. What are the hopes and fears we should be praying about? It is hard to know.

Rachel Gray said...

It's true, Randy. If a girl becomes a Missionary of Charity, feeding the poor, anyone can see the value of that. Only someone with a lot of faith sees the value of a cloistered life. I think few people really believe in prayer as much as they think they do. Even Christians who say that prayer is the most important thing will balk at the notion of devoting one's life to it.

And like you say, the girl knows that the gain outweighs the loss, but often her loved ones only see the loss.

Jim, I really like that Grey Havens image.