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Entering The Convent, The Orthodox Way


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[quote name='marigold' timestamp='1319454706' post='2326182']
I was thinking about how to start this topic, and kept running into things that would need to be explained to a (mostly) Roman Catholic audience. And I thought that there was no way to cover all the differences and similarities in a one-off post, that they would all come out better in the natural course of conversation (providing you want to converse). So I decided to post a letter that I wrote to my aunt when she first heard that I had decided to become a nun. Since I'm still unsure about how much to specify, I've edited place names etc. Hope you enjoy it! Feel free to comment/ask questions.

[size=4][i]Hello![/i][/size]

[size=4][i]It's so good to hear from you! When I saw your name in my inbox I thought perhaps I was going get trouble from you as well, so it was a nice surprise to read that you are curious and don't think the world is coming to an end.[/i][/size]

[size=4][i]We talked for a while yesterday, me and mum and dad, but I don't think we understood each other very well. [Dad] thought I'd gone a bit astray but that I should be allowed to give it a go. [Mum] got angry and said she felt she'd failed. What I tried to express to them, but might not have got across was that, on the one hand it has a lot to do with them - if they hadn't been such amazing parents and siblings, and brought me up so well, I wouldn't have the strength and the love that I do. On the other hand it doesn't have much at all to do with them. My decision is not a judgment on their lives and beliefs, nor is it just rebellion - if it had been, I wouldn't have gone around with a knot in my stomach for a year, worrying about how to tell them.[/i][/size]

[b][i]It is so frustrating when loved ones get upset or just don't understand...when they say, "But I will never hug you/see you again!" "How can you leave the family?" "You would be wasting your life & talents in there." [/i][/b]


[size=4][i]She asked what had become of the desire to save the world, and then I understood, as you maybe have done too, how impossible it was to explain to someone who hadn't had that experience. It was like speaking two different languages. For her, it looks like I've given up, like I'm going and hiding myself in the forest. For me it's the other way round. I see the world's need and want to be enough, want to be everywhere and help everyone. That passion remains. But I've understood that it can't be done, humanly speaking it can't be done. But it is my belief, which is to say the belief of the Orthodox Church, that if I withdraw and apply myself to prayer and work, then God can somehow act freely. I'm not standing in the way. And in that way it becomes unlimited, and can be enough for the world.[/i][/size]

[size=4][i][b]It is like St. Therese being the patroness of missionaries...her influence is felt throughout the world & she never left the cloister. [/b][/i][/size]

[size=4][i]I don't know when I 'came up with' this idea about becoming a nun, it's always been there in the back of my mind ([Mum] says she regrets letting us watch The Sound of Music so often!). I just didn't have the right context. But then I was received into the Orthodox Church, and the week before I was received, a friend and I went to visit the monastery in Essex, and that was the last piece of the puzzle. I knew this was the life for me ... though I don't really like this concept of 'calling'. It doesn't need to be so abstract I think. It wasn't a choice as such, although I have chosen a particular monastery and must continue to choose it every day when it gets difficult with the family and there's all the nonsense with papers for the visa. It was a bit like when I first met Josh, you probably know what I mean, you just know that this person is going to be a big part of my life. That's what I felt. Monasteries are going to be a big part of my life.[/i][/size]

[size=4][i][b]Yes, it is like a drawing towards Someone...For me it has been a desire that has waxed & waned over the years, but I continue to feel this pull...& it never really goes away & so I must follow it through & see where He leads me...[/b][/i][/size]


[size=4][i]That it then ended up being [the eastern U.S.] doesn't seem so remarkable, you end up wherever you end up, and it's these women I'm in love with, and precisely this place I want to live out the rest of my life. Of course it's not an unhealthy community. I'm encouraged to be myself and do work I love. The abbess has said I'm going to take care of the gardens and I'm very happy about that. It's a simple life, not so mysterious. They get up early and go to bed early, and during the day it's work on the farm or in the house, prayer in the chapel, meals and a little rest. On Sundays some families come to the liturgy and share a lunch afterwards - and that's when you get to taste real American food![/i][/size]

[size=4][i]The monastery itself is small. You can look at their website although they're not very good at updating it. We share patron saints, that's how I found them, when I was looking for information about mine. It's a big white house on a hill. On the farm they have sheep, goats, a few oxen, chickens and ducks. Fruit and vegetables of course, and lovely flowerbeds around the house which aren't so lovely this year since [Mother Abbess] has had cancer and it's she who is normally the gardener.[/i][/size]

[size=4][i]One of my friends wondered what would happen if this turned out to be a phase, and I subsequently wouldn't be able to leave the monastery. I told her it takes nearly ten years to decide if you want to stay or not. During the testing time of the first years, you can leave almost without saying goodbye. In contrast to what we've perhaps believed, it's not at all closed-in. No 'cloister' so to speak, no walls, the car doors are never locked.[/i][/size]

[size=4][i]But I don't find it frightening to think of a whole life in the monastery since I enjoy it so much. It's already like home. Rather, it's difficult to be here in London when I just want to be there![/i][/size]


[size=4][i]And it's the joy which draws me, the joy of working on the farm and praying often, and the joy I see in the nuns, that they've lived there for many years and still are joyful, relaxed, funny and intelligent. I want what they have. The steady joy which might not always express itself in loud laughter and shouting but which glows in their faces. In some way there aren't so many boundaries for them, they talk as easily with a stranger in the food shop as with a close friend. Perhaps that is what comes out of the daily rhythm, pray, work, eat, sleep. The days are the same, so eventually it becomes like one long day, and the spirit is freed to get on with other things. Maybe this is getting into mysticism's territory, but really it's just so everyday, so happily everyday, and that is what I love.[/i][/size]

[size=4][i][b]This idea of a life of routine & simplicity (more so than not once one gets the rubrics of such life down pat!) to make room for Him...yes![/b][/i][/size]

[size=4][i]It's not about being holy or moral or even good, but about being alive or dead. In some very real way has "for his sake everything else lost its value for me." Of course it hurts to decide to leave friends, family, London, the familiar. But let it cost, because I receive so much joy. No other lifestyle has given me this joy and this satisfaction. This is what I am in the same way musicians and actors feel that it is something they are instead of only something they do. But my friend could be right, maybe it is a phase. Only one way to find out![/i][/size]

[size=4][b][i]This joy of the Lord will transcend any other feelings, happiness, sadness, grief & will help guide you to where you are meant to be...& yes, there is only one way to find out...with a leap of faith![/i][/b][/size]

[size=4][i]Love to [your daughter].[/i][/size]

[size=4][i]Marigold[/i][/size]


[/quote]


My apologies, but I am half asleep & still don't think I am able to put into proper words what your letter has meant to me, but thank you for sharing it with us. :blush:

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I was thinking about how to start this topic, and kept running into things that would need to be explained to a (mostly) Roman Catholic audience. And I thought that there was no way to cover all the d

Reason #193 why Mother is the best Abbess EVER: [i]Dear Marigold,[/i] [i]I feel as if there is a ghost in chapel these days -- I go in and it seems someone should be there only I don't see them

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[quote name='marigold' timestamp='1319564846' post='2326899']
The Great Schema is very rarely given. [/quote]

Thank you for this post; I loved knowing about the progression of your profession (and about the habit, because I am WAY shallow.) I went off to Wikipedia to find pictures of some of these habit parts, and I have a question. Wiki says that some orders give the Great Schema on your deathbed; does yours?

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[quote name='mme_hardy' timestamp='1319642575' post='2327279']

Thank you for this post; I loved knowing about the progression of your profession (and about the habit, because I am WAY shallow.) I went off to Wikipedia to find pictures of some of these habit parts, and I have a question. Wiki says that some orders give the Great Schema on your deathbed; does yours?
[/quote]

Yes, though not specifically because it's your deathbed but because reaching that point of repentance usually takes a lifetime! Put it this way - the Great Schema has never been given in my monastery.

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I just got back from taking one of those big blue IKEA bags of clothes and trinkets to a charity shop. There were a bunch of impractical clothes and shoes in there (including flip-flops which I won't ever wear again, isn't that strange?), mostly stuff I won't miss, but also a few things that had a lot of sentimental value, like a brass bookend in the shape of a ship that has been kicking around since I was yay high... silly stuff that I hardly ever thought about, but it was still weird to just give it away anonymously. It was so heavy I had to take it in my kid's buggy... I felt like a hobo pushing along a buggy with a huge bag of clothes strapped on with string. But I'm free of it now, free free free!

Something that occurred to me on the way home though was - and I cannot believe I hadn't realised it before - that I am going to have to give up my Swedish citizenship if I am to have any hope of eventually settling in the States. Sigh. Now that will be difficult. :paperbag:

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I haven't posted here yet as we have talked privately, but just wanted to add my best wishes.

Do you have a picture of the first habit you will be given at all? Just so I can imagine what you will look like! Thanks

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[quote name='faithcecelia' timestamp='1319666515' post='2327453']
I haven't posted here yet as we have talked privately, but just wanted to add my best wishes.

Do you have a picture of the first habit you will be given at all? Just so I can imagine what you will look like! Thanks
[/quote]

It's surprisingly hard to get a nun to stand still for a photo, but here you've got a side view (just imagine it without the headphones or hat!)...

[img]http://i32.photobucket.com/albums/d42/burning_string/bells2.jpg[/img]

and front view...

[img]http://i32.photobucket.com/albums/d42/burning_string/mm.jpg[/img]

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[quote name='marigold' timestamp='1319665047' post='2327441']
I just got back from taking one of those big blue IKEA bags of clothes and trinkets to a charity shop. There were a bunch of impractical clothes and shoes in there (including flip-flops which I won't ever wear again, isn't that strange?), mostly stuff I won't miss, but also a few things that had a lot of sentimental value, like a brass bookend in the shape of a ship that has been kicking around since I was yay high... silly stuff that I hardly ever thought about, but it was still weird to just give it away anonymously. It was so heavy I had to take it in my kid's buggy... I felt like a hobo pushing along a buggy with a huge bag of clothes strapped on with string. But I'm free of it now, free free free!

Something that occurred to me on the way home though was - and I cannot believe I hadn't realised it before - that I am going to have to give up my Swedish citizenship if I am to have any hope of eventually settling in the States. Sigh. Now that will be difficult. :paperbag:
[/quote]

Can't you have dual citizenship? My cousins hold both French and American, and another cousin holds British and American.

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Perhaps the difference is that your cousins started out American and acquired an additional citizenship whereas Marigold is a non-US citizen acquiring US citizenship? I think the US requires anyone who wants to become an American citizen to renounce citizenship of their country of origin whereas the US allows Americans to keep their US citizenship when getting dual citizenship with another country.

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[quote name='Aya Sophia' timestamp='1319679675' post='2327566']
Perhaps the difference is that your cousins started out American and acquired an additional citizenship whereas Marigold is a non-US citizen acquiring US citizenship? I think the US requires anyone who wants to become an American citizen to renounce citizenship of their country of origin whereas the US allows Americans to keep their US citizenship when getting dual citizenship with another country.
[/quote]
Huh. It's complicated since one cousin was born in France and her sister was born in the US.

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[quote name='faithcecelia' timestamp='1319668517' post='2327466']
Thanks, thats razzle dazzle. I love how pieces are gradually added to the habit as you progress in religious life.
[/quote]

Yes, I like that too :)

[quote name='Aya Sophia' timestamp='1319679675' post='2327566']
Perhaps the difference is that your cousins started out American and acquired an additional citizenship whereas Marigold is a non-US citizen acquiring US citizenship? I think the US requires anyone who wants to become an American citizen to renounce citizenship of their country of origin whereas the US allows Americans to keep their US citizenship when getting dual citizenship with another country.
[/quote]

Yup, you got it.

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