Saturday, August 11, 2012

To this all-gladsome feast attend!

When all the nuns were sleeping
And the sun had gone to bed;
Up jumped a postulant
And this is what she said…

(Or rather, what she thought – because the Great Silence was on)

“It’s today! It’s today! It’s today! It’s today! It’s today! It’s today! It’s today!”

Such childishness, you may be thinking. I agree. But you see, that’s just one of the nicest things about being a postulant in a religious community – you’re one of the community’s babies, and for us, things like St Dominic’s Day are just as exciting as Christmas to a 4-year-old.

And we had plenty of right to be excited, too. I mean, one’s Holy Father’s Feast Day only comes around once a year, and one must celebrate it properly. Now, doing something properly, as you all know I’m sure, involves extensive preparation. This we did, commencing about a week and a half in advance, because there was so much to be done. There was a meal to be planned, decorations to be thought out, a Sung Mass in the Convent to practice for, and the entertainment for the day needed rehearsing (more on that later).

Preparations reached fever pitch the day before Saturday, the 4th of August, for we had to squeeze in an enormous amount of things in readiness for the next day. There were last-minute rehearsals of St Dominic’s Mass, frenzied cutting and drawing and pinning on mysterious pieces of cardboard and draught-preventers (Mother Micaela was quite mystified as to what was going to become of them in particular), desperate attempts to get all the flowers done in time, and to top it all off, we had to put in a turbo-charged effort to get our house duties done in amongst all this, because there was no way anybody was going to be allowed to do something as mundane as cleaning on the Saturday.

Somehow, I don’t know quite how, all of this managed to be crammed into Friday. We managed to get to sleep after all the circulating adrenaline and cortisol had settled down, and this now brings me to where I was at the start of these ramblings with that one pervading thought on waking – “It’s today!” I hope I have now justified the childishness a little.

But, you may ask, did things live up to expectation? We all know that sometimes the build-up can be more than the event itself – I’m guessing (but I don’t know for sure, seeing as we don’t have TVs or radios or newspapers or worldly things like that around here, of course!) that some of the Olympians in London are feeling like that right now. However, this was most assuredly not the case this 4th of August, because the day more than lived up to expectations, and the effort involved in the build-up only served to augment the enjoyment of the day. I speak from my own perspective here, but knowing that the flower-arrangers were hurrying about looking both frantic and furtive the evening before, but not knowing exactly what they were constructing, while I was hurrying about myself, only made the vision of the Chapel and convent full of gorgeous posies (with a bona fide garland around St Dominic’s statue!) all the more lovely upon encountering them in the morning. It gave that really satisfying feeling of “so that’s what they were up to!”

After Office and meditation, we quickly rearranged the furniture in the Chapel because something very special was planned for Mass – a Conventual Sung Mass! Incredibly, the attempt to fit a keyboard into our little Chapel was successful, and shortly afterwards Fr Delsorte processed into the strains of “Hail, St Dominic”. Next, Sr Raymond’s hard work in the past week or so was shown to pay dividends; we sang the Proper confidently and followed the Ceremonial with all of the beautiful Dominican inclinations just as she had taught us. Father preached us a lovely sermon on how we can imitate St Dominic in our lives, and these thoughts were reinforced in our minds as we sang the triumphant “Sing The Mighty Champion’s Praises” as a recessional to conclude Holy Mass. I have to say I am really looking forward to our next Conventual Sung Mass – it really was something.

Our next item for the day was another extra-special occurrence: a hot brunch! The kitchen was thrown open to all comers, and pretty much everyone came to help prepare the feast. Bacon, eggs, beans, French toast, fresh salsa, crumpets…after a whirlwind effort, something worthy of an Enid Blyton Famous Five repast was before us. It wasn’t before us for long, though, because by that stage we were a bit beyond peckish and we proceeded to relieve the serving bowls of their burdens. A kind gesture, really, if you think about it.

After clearing up, we said Sext, and then proceeded to ready ourselves for the much-awaited entertainment of the day. This entertainment was to be put on by the novices and postulants for the amusement of the Professed Sisters, and as a result, an atmosphere of furtiveness and secrecy hung over the convent in the days preceding. Some last-minute assembly of props and costumes was required, so the suspense was prolonged, but the performers were ready at last! The Play, so long awaited, finally came to life! What it was actually about is a bit complicated, so that will be posted as a separate item on the blog, but the prĂ©cis is that Alice in Wonderland fell down another hole into a world made up of magical Lands populated by various problematic characters and she had to find her way out again. This will be expanded on in another post, but suffice it to say here that the West End and Broadway’s losses are very much our Convent’s gain.

It took a while for our elevated spirits to return to something like normal afterwards; laughing that much tends to have a bit of a lasting effect, at least in my experience. We worked off our surplus energy with a delightful afternoon of walking and good conversation and a bit of skipping – but don’t expect us to do Double-Dutch; some people only narrowly avoided ending up in a hospital with multiple traumatic injuries.

All too soon, the evening was upon us, but some angelic Sisters still found some energy to whip up a scrumptious dinner. By this stage, the excitement of the day found us in the happy stage of savouring it at a leisurely pace with all the day’s moments to look back on.
And then – the bell went, enveloping the Convent in the Great Silence once again. Fourteen happy souls went to sleep that night, secure in the knowledge that their Holy Father St Dominic and Our Blessed Lady continue to watch over them, winning for them a multitude of favours, not least of all the gift of joy.

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