That's when I got to bed last night. Just before retiring I sent off an email to the superior of a convent in Europe, asking if I can come visit for a week.
My alarm went off. Minutes later Mom was knocking softly on my door. "Rachel, it's three o'clock." Mom and Dad are headed back East today to visit relatives, and as the resident child I promised to drive them to the airport. We planned to leave at the ridiculous hour of 3:30 AM, to give them plenty of time to catch their 6 AM flight. I argued with Mom about the departure time, but she was adamant that we needed to leave that early-- in fact, 3:30 was a compromise. She'd wanted to go at 3:15.
I shuffled over to my laptop and checked email. My attention was immediately arrested by a reply from the order in Europe. The mother superior says yes, I can visit! She gave me possible dates-- I could go as early as May.
I don't suppose it comes as news to readers of this blog, but I think I'm going to be a nun and I'm trying to find out where. I guess I won't say too much about the whole decision-making process, since it seems better not to chat about it on the web while everything's still in flux. But at any rate, I've been interested in this particular order for a long time and I'm really glad that it looks like I can go, even though the cheapest ticket on Orbitz is going to be about $1300. (!)
So, that news woke me up.
3:30 AM (or so)
I headed out with my parents, fumbling to lock the front door behind me in complete darkness. The drive to the LAX airport was very fast-- I've never seen the 605 freeway so empty!
On the way I cheerfully announced to the parental units: "I have bad news! I'm going to be visiting two more convents." I told them that one is in the middle of nowhere in the Great Plains (I'm planning to go the first weekend in June), and the other's in Europe. My parents are not exactly fans of the whole nun thing, but Mom was excited to hear that one of the places is in Europe, right in an area she's been wanting to visit. She immediately wanted to go with me until I explained that it's a week in a convent, not a sight-seeing tour. At least she's looking on the bright side.
Arrival at LAX. Quite a few others were already at the terminals. My parents and I hugged goodbye. Dad: "Don't join any convents while we're gone!"
I arrived at St. Peter Chanel and was by no means the first one there. People come at all hours of the night; the church is locked but all the parishioners know the combination. We used to have 24-7 adoration with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, but for that you have to make sure someone will always be there, and it got difficult to find enough men willing to make the commitment for the night hours. (Our pastor doesn't want to have women coming alone in the middle of the night, since it's not a safe neighborhood.) Maybe we'll restart the adoration eventually; in the meantime people are still free to come and pray before the tabernacle whenever they like. Have I ever mentioned that I love my church? Because I do. :)
I tried to calm myself down for a holy hour, still hyped up with the knowledge that I'll be visiting these two monasteries I'm interested in. And just yesterday I was feeling so pessimistic about it all, too. Oh me of little faith.
(One day I'll learn the precise difference between a "convent" and a "monastery". I used to think convents were for nuns and monasteries for monks, but that was before I saw an episode of House that featured a bunch of nuns who live in a monastery.)
I read the breviary for a while and that got me settled in and praying. We're in the Octave of Easter and it was good to have all the Psalms and readings and antiphons celebrating it. I had an awesome Easter Triduum but it went by too fast. So, as Fr. Z writes about octaves, "Octave refers to a period of eight days following a feast day, including the feast itself. Since the implementation of the so-called Novus Ordo, we now have only two: Christmas and Easter. In a sense, time is suspended during an octave. God created the world in six days and on the seventh He rested. The eighth day, a day beyond the cycle of seven, is a glimpse of the eternal state, the perfect sabbath of heaven. Also, since the Church is the greatest expert on humanity that there has ever been, the Church is wise to give us octaves. From the point of view of human psychology, we cannot possibly cope with the impact of the all the different angles and dimensions of the mysteries of these great feasts... A lifetime is insufficient, and eternity will not suffice to contemplate the mystery, but at least we have eight days and not merely one to focus our minds and hearts upon it."
Also, right after Easter the first reading in the Office of Readings is taken from 1st and 2nd Peter, and I love his letters. Since I've been Catholic they speak to me more than any other part of the Bible, I think. He was hardcore.
Fr. Sean celebrated Mass. He was ordained in January 2009; I blogged the ordination here and his first Mass here. This morning was his last Mass at St. Peter Chanel. The Oblates of the Virgin Mary are transferring him to the Boston area where he'll mostly be doing spiritual direction. We're seriously going to miss him!
(Incidentally, do you know where Boston got its name? It's named for a city in England, the hometown of some of the prominent Puritan founders of the new Boston. The city in England was named for St. Botolph, an English abbot who died around A.D. 680.)
A crowd of early morning diehards gathered outside the church to say farewell to Fr. Sean and Brother Jerry, also an Oblate who's being transferred. They're both great; I'm glad for the few times I got to hang with them before they left. I learned to my delight that Br. Jerry is to be ordained a deacon later this year, and a priest probably sometime next year. Hooray! I had thought he was going to be a permanent brother because of his heart problems or something-- which shows how much I know. We think he'll be a great priest and we're already praying that the ordination will be back at SPC.
But I know Fr. Sean better because he's been my spiritual director since late last year. I'd been looking for someone to direct me for a long time, but I didn't think of him at first because he was a new priest barely older than me, and he looked so nice that I figured he wouldn't be tough enough. I had an idea that I needed a crotchety yet extremely wise old guy to direct me. Someone like Gandalf. Then I went to confession to Fr. Sean and he grounded me from the Internet, which rather altered my view of him. It turns out that the nicest priests can also be the toughest; they look at you with that kindly smile at the very moment that they're saying something that's really hard to hear. And what Fr. Sean said to me when he became my director was: "You've been wasting time. You can treat vocation discernment like a hobby, and just do a bit of research here and there, but if you do that you'll be forty years old before you get anywhere. You need to start calling places and visiting them!"
Hence in the last few months I've visited two orders and made plans to visit two more. Having a spiritual director makes a huge difference; I highly recommend it to all who are thinking of religious life, and especially to those who think they're smart enough to do without a director. Not that I know anything about that.
The sun was over the housetops and beaming a beautiful golden light on Diep, Adonela, and me as we followed Brother Jerry to the rectory to chat a bit more. Fr. Sean came by. "You look like Jesus and the three Marys!" said he. We immediately filed the comment away to be taken out and savored later on, then said our goodbyes to the two departing Oblates.
The three of us headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant and ordered champurrado and carne asada tacos for breakfast. It was good to sit and chat and debrief each other on various events.
I arrived at another church nearby to follow a lead on a possible spiritual director, now that I need a new one. I parked and started rooting around in my purse when there came a knock at my car window. It was a police officer. "Are you here for the funeral, Ma'am?" Looking up I saw a hearse, a crowd of people in black, and tons of flowers; evidently the regular 8:30 AM Mass had turned into a funeral Mass for a day. I didn't want to crash somebody's funeral (done enough of that for one lifetime), nor did I want to waltz in among the mourners in my casual clothes, so I decided to postpone the search for this priest I want to see.
Back home. I took a leisurely walk down our long driveway, which is bursting with life and color thanks to all the gardening my retired parents do. I'll have to drag hoses around for hours to keep all this stuff watered and alive until they return. Gotta keep the cat fed too, but there's no danger of forgetting that chore-- she'll remind me.
Checked email. Ohmygoodness ohmygoodness-- the new coadjutor bishop of Los Angeles has been appointed! For those who don't know what I'm talking about, he's a guy who's going to work with Cardinal Roger Mahony for a year, and then replace him as head of the Archdiocese of L.A. when Cdl. Mahony retires. The bishop of a diocese has a big influence on all the parishes therein, so we Catholics have been on tenterhooks about who the heir apparent will be.
And the answer is... it's Archbishop Gomez from San Antonio. I had no clue who the man was; the news story Adonela emailed made a big deal of the fact that he's Hispanic, but that means nothing to me one way or the other. Is he a good bishop? By that I mean: does he have a spine? Does he teach the Faith even when he's vilified for it? Does he act like a shepherd of souls rather than a politician?
There was one place where I knew I could find out fast. I headed over to Fr. Z's blog, and all the radtrad Catholics there were celebrating the news. That was good enough for me-- I started celebrating too, and as I read more on the web about him I got happier and happier. He was one of the first bishops to speak out against the abysmal decision of the president of Notre Dame... you all know that kerfuffle; I needn't go into it here. He's welcoming of the traditional Latin Mass, which is a big plus with me. And there's also this: "the 850,000-member San Antonio church's current contingent of 28 seminarians is double what Gomez found on his 2005 arrival." That's waaaaay more seminarians than we have for the number of Catholics here in L.A.; for years now very few men have been inspired to become priests in this archdiocese. Maybe the Pope was thinking of that when he made the appointment. And Abp. Gomez is from San Antonio, so maybe he's even a Spurs fan! :)
(The Spurs have looked pretty old and injured this year; it's been hard to take. They barely qualified for the playoffs which will begin soon. But just in the last few weeks they've been playing really well! Probably just reeling me back in, the better to crush my hopes once more...)
Here's a bunch of stuff on Archbishop Gomez for those who want to know.
Blogging break with a cup of tea and lots of Easter candy Mom foolishly left behind. She called from Dallas to inform me that she and Dad made it through the LAX security line in record time. "All the stores were closed and we had nothing to do. Dad had two whole hours to sit and complain!" I told her it was magnanimous of her to admit this to me after I'd done so much complaining myself about the early start. One of my mom's great features is that she's not egotistical. Though she may forget this incident by the time she's ready to book her next flight; she's genuinely fond of those early starts. Crazy woman.
Mom still wants to head to the glamorous European destination with me, and tour around with Dad while I hang with the nuns. I'd be happy not to have to navigate in a foreign airport by myself, but we'll see.
Well, the day is still young! I guess I'll go to work.