Live-In: Part 1

I’ve been insanely busy since I left St. Cecilia’s so I haven’t had much time to write fully about my live-in. Luckily, I kept a fairly detailed journal while I was there so I don’t have to try and rack my brains to remember everything. I’ll post it in two parts, to save from having one ridiculously long post. Some days will have more than others, depending obviously on how much time I had to write that day.

Obviously, I have to be discrete out of respect for the privacy of the community. But if you have any questions about my stay then feel free to ask and I will answer as much as I feel able to. I’ll post some sections directly from my journal, those will be in brown. I’ve shortened names to initials, again for the privacy of the community.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve hit 8000 views! Every time I hit another marker I’m just amazed.

Anyway, here is the first half of my live-in!

Edit: You can now read Part 2 as well.

12th July

I came in yesterday after Mass. Being a feast day it was rather unusual being that there was therefore no work. But it made it easier to just focus on the Office rather then other things as well. Sr MTo was assigned to look after me, and I was surprised that [postulant] has entered already, so it was lovely to meet her. 

Postulant and I had spoken via email before she entered. I expected to miss her since her entrance date was supposed to be after my live-in but she ended up entering earlier than that so I got to meet her which was really nice.

Today has been a normal day. I didn’t say the early hours of the Office, I got up just before breakfast. I was relieved at Mass that the Missal they use is the same kind as my Sunday Missal, so I understood the basic format, though switching between the gradual and the missal was quite confusing. 

St. Cecilia’s have Mass in the Ordinary Form in Latin, except for the readings. It’s so incredibly beautiful. Also, I learnt there that there’s a Eucharistic Prayer 4, which I had never heard of before but thought was incredibly beautiful. It’s a pity it’s not used more, but it can only be used on ferias because it has a proper preface (I learnt this from Mother Zelatrix). The Missal I have is a fantastic one that has both English and Latin alongside each other, so I was able to follow the Mass fairly easily despite my deficiency in Latin.

I’ve been learning things mostly by copying Sr. MTo, who is wonderfully patient with me. Some of the habits I’m learning easier than others but there is a lot to pick up on and thankfully everyone is very willing to point me in the right direction. I can roughly find my way around, at least from the novitiate to the choir. I stand next to Sr. MTe at choir. I don’t try to sing the offices, I just say them in my head as I try to keep track. So far I’ve done alright and I seem to find my way when I get lost.

One thing that I realised I had been expecting was an instant answer from God. I wanted to walk in and go “right, this it it” or “nope, I’m outta here.” It sounds silly and I realise it is. There is a naïvety often in the so called ‘instant connection’ because one must wonder what that connection is based on. That is not to say all such experiences are invalid, just that one should be cautious. So while I cannot say I have felt any such thing here, I find it worth noting that I also do feel comfortable here. I have not been here nearly long enough to feel at home as such but I feel like I could feel at home here. I suppose on some level though I am being cautious: there is a fear of them telling me ‘no’. But as I keep saying in my prayers, let it be done according to His will. 

13th July 

Yesterday [postulant] had been here for a month. It was very sweet, Sr. MTo and Sr. MTe for very excited and were wishing her a happy monastic birthday. Mother Mistress said the time had flown by, and it seemed like she had been here much longer. 

I am having the opportunity to rad the Holy Father’s book “Jesus of Nazareth”, which I am finding greatly interesting, if challenging in part. I am also reading Dom Gueranger’s book on the religious life and have seen more writings oh his in the library I will read if I get time. 

One thing I am getting used to is the Great Silence. It is a wonderful kind of silence, the effect is very peaceful. It makes one treasure the time we have to speak freely. 

I really learnt to love the silence. Most of the time I’m the sort of person who is only silent when alone or I’ve gone to church to pray. I actually found the silence much less intimidating that I thought I would. Even when working I learnt to appreciate the work that allowed for silence – some work obviously requires more talking that others. There was probably in some areas more talking because of me, since I needed quite a bit of direction.

14th July

I am very careful not to hope too much of being here again, in case I come to the end of my visit and they do not think I fit in here. But let it be done according to His will. Though I am still guarded despite saying that, I am to speak with MM tomorrow so I shall see what she has to say then. 

I worked in the altar-bread department this day. I was only packaging but it was quite incredible to think that these little breads before me would become the Body of Christ! It’s just so amazing, it really makes you appreciate what a wonder the Eucharist is.

15th July

Recreation is always such fun, and the sisters often bring with them the interesting things they’ve been sent. Sr. MTo showed us a lovely postcard from a friend, and yesterday a very funny letter from her granny, which at least partially answered my question as to whether their families called them by their monastic names of not since the letter was addressed to her baptismal name. 

One thing I do not feel here is enclosed. I suppose it is difficult to feel enclosed in so much space but even behind the grille when we are in choir does not feel suffocating in the way some might find it. It feels very natural somehow and I expect it would be strange without it. 

Since there was no lesson, MM and I went for a walk. She says she has been surprised at how well I am settling here so I hope that is a good sign for the future. So far I am very comfortable here and MM commented that my feelings on the Office were very Benedictine. I discovered that the illumination [belonging to mutual friend] was done by MM! She was quite astounded that I had seen it, but I remember it well from their house. 

Explanation: MM and I have some mutual friends – she is friends with an old work colleague of my mothers and I knew the family very well when I was younger. I lost contact with them many years ago so it was lovely to hear how they’re all doing. They are a very devout family and I knew them around when I was baptised and preparing for First Communion and they always inspired me.

This afternoon, MM was teaching me and [postulant] calligraphy. I really enjoyed it and apparently have quite the knack for it. So far I’ve been working on ‘c’, ‘o’ and ‘d’. I also had a go at writing my name, which turned out okay but [letter] wasn’t very good. 

16th July

This morning I overslept and missed Lauds. I was still in my nightgown when Sr. MTo knocked on my door, but she assured me everyone does the same thing at least once. I was fairly tired yesterday so obviously I needed the extra little sleep. Hopefully I shall make it to Lauds tomorrow! 

This afternoons work was in the altar-bread department, this time I was mixing. It was messy business but I had to mix it in a large vat and test how think it was until it was suitable. Stirring the vat make me feel rather like a witch at her cauldron, since the mixture was bubbling away as it mixed. 

It was so awesome to see exactly how altar-breads are made. Plus, I learnt that my parish buys their hosts from St. Cecilia’s so that was really cool to learn.

17th July 

I managed to wake up in time for Lauds today, thankfully. I must say I was rather embarrassed at missing it yesterday. 

One of our bidding prayers at Mass today was for an improvement in the weather. This morning it was so cold that I had a blanket on during Lectio but the Lord has answered out prayers and the day turned out wonderfully. 

Weather may not seem like a big thing, but when it was miserable we couldn’t have recreation outside. Not that recreation was any less fun when inside but they have such beautiful grounds that one wants to be able to take advantage of that.

19th July

Just as we were starting work (church cleaning with Sr. MTe) MM came and asked if I wanted to see the slideshow on the abbey life. Some of Sr. E’s friends were visiting and she was showing it to them and MM thought I might be interested. I had to help her with the computer a bit. Some of the pictures are also on their website so it was very strange seeing them again but knowing who many of the sisters were! It even had Sr. MTe as a postulant. 

Sr. MTe had made her first vows just before my visit so it was really sweet to see her as a postulant and know that she’s in first vows now.

All the sisters were so nice and kind, and so true to the hospitality of their Order. Even Mother Abbess checked how I was doing when she passed me in the hallway. I didn’t get to meet all the sisters but by the end of my stay I knew pretty much all their names even if I hadn’t actually spoken to them. The sisters I got to know most were obviously MM, MZ and the novitiate, and those that I worked with.

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