Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of Books and Clocks and Essay-work; and Coffee-cups, and Things.

Ten seconds to nine-o -five

(tap, tap, tap sings the laptop)

. . . nine seconds to nine-o-five

(tap, tappity  tap, tap)

. . . eight seconds . . .

(tap tap tappity tappity, tappity, tap)

. . . seven seconds . . .

(hit control-save; shut down)

. . . six . .

(flap the screen down - thump; shove it on the shelf)

 . . . five . . .

(swish the bed-sheets back, slide in between them ) 

. . . four seconds . . . three . . . 

(click goes the lamp switch)

. . . two . . .


 . . . one . . . NINE - O - FIVE!


Such was the last ten seconds of last Tuesday for my young charge.  She was working on an assignment - Theology, you know - and the paper was due on Wednesday.  Time is a strange thing - it moves very fast, and even though my protégé has been living in it all her life, she still hasn't managed to compute just what speed it goes at, and plan her activities accordingly.

Oh, before I go any further, I should introduce myself.  I am one of the residents of Rosary Convent, Tynong.  However, unless you happen to be very high up in the service of God, you probably won't see me should you happen to visit.  I am a Guardian Angel of one of these budding Dominicans.  Modest as the title looks on paper, I think it fails to illustrate the scope and strain attached to such a position!

Not that I complain - on the contrary!  Guarding souls is one of the most sublime duties Almighty God can honour one of His creatures with.  Nevertheless, while becoming the guardian of a young religious may be viewed in the light of a promotion of sorts, it does bring with it an entire string of new cares and responsibilities.  For one thing, my little protégé seems to have undergone a strange metamorphosis, whereby she is in more in need of divine assistance than ever!  Upon entering the Novitiate, she left a good many things behind - her old life, most of her possessions, her ordinary clothes, her family.  She also seems to have left a bit of her memory behind, since I've had a lot of plaintive requests to remind her of things lately, such as the following:

"Tuesday evening is my turn to serve at table, dear Angel - please don't let me forget!"
Or "Good Angel, what date is that Literature Essay due?"

Or "Holy Angel, please remind me to turn the oven on at four-seventeen so that dinner will be hot in time for tea!"

Or (I generally get this one at five-o-six in the morning) "Good Angel, what day is it today?"

. . . One generally has the vague notion that it is grownups (or at least young adults) who enter the Novitiate - well, I must say that in my own experience, my little sister has become very childlike again in her dependence!  Or perhaps it would be fairer to say that she realizes more concretely that she is unmistakably finite, and consequently leans more heavily on supernatural aid.

The practical side of Religious Life, for those who are just getting used to it, can be rather bewildering at times.  With a busy schedule composed of prayer, study, more prayer and more study; varied with a healthy dose of all the work attached to being human (such as cooking spaghetti and washing coffee-cups), it is small wonder that brand-new postulants wander about the convent with a look halfway between preoccupation and semi-befuddlement.  

I don't blame them.  Fortunately, prayer occupies such a prominent part of the Dominican day that it is relatively easy to remind my protégé what all this busy-ness is about.  All these varied labours are for the Divine Resident in the Chapel, at Whose Feet the Community gather many times during the day, to join us Angels in praising the Divine Majesty.

Having readjusted her spiritual compass, my little charge looks to see what comes next.  Perhaps it's time to attend lectures.  If that's the case I remind her to bring a pen along, (very easy to forget such a small piece of scholastic apparatus).  

Perhaps it's time to work on assignments.  If so, I take up a position looking over her shoulder as she taps away on a computer.  Some days she can type non-stop, and have a very decent collection of words on her sheet by the end of forty minutes.  Other times the tapping is sporadic, and my poor little scholar wriggles her head and her fingers helplessly by turns - clearly there's a thought coming, but it just won't come.  

So I reach in and give it a push, and then it's business as normal.  Other days she'll set herself up nicely with a large array of books spread out on the table and alternate between looking out the window for inspiration and rubbing her forehead to help the ideas bud.  

After about ten minutes of this, she remembers that she can ask me for help, and I whisper an activation word in her ear.  Perhaps its 'despot', or 'dynamic', or 'liberation theology' or (this was a good one for helping along a Theology essay) 'objective conceptualisation'.

Since the Dominican specialty is to know the Truth in order to teach it, you can guess that study takes up a great deal of Dominican time, and it's in this area that my young charge likes best to know that I am near.  There is such a great deal (for the human mind) to learn and the quantity of knowledge seems overwhelming at times to my little sister.  I have never had the experience of being mentally bogged by a billion or more facts, ranging from the gymnastics of Gregorian neums to the gory kaleidoscope going by the name of the French Revolution, but I understand that it is not a pleasant one.  However, it is my happy lot to sort out these scary arrays of knowledge and help fit them into her 'little brain'.  At the same time, I find that the best remedy for any restlessness -mental or otherwise - is the whisper that it is not necessary to memorize ALL these wordy definitions of impersonal truth to be a good Dominican - the most important Truth to know is a Person - the Word of God.

Rosary Convent: An Artist's Impression :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dominican Nuns’ Novitiate: Sisters in Tynong - Education, Easter, Excursions, & other Events

Dear Blogosphere,

(Yes, that title has been carefully constructed to get more Google hits. Just in case you were wondering.)

I realize we’ve been neglecting you terribly. Apologies all round. But the reason is, as always, that word that starts with “B” and rhymes with “dizzy.” I feel a bit dizzy myself after this whirlwind semester, but seeing as I handed in the last assignment, for the markers to do with as they please, just 2 days ago, I have been revitalized with that priceless sense of liberation and am going to devote myself to our friends on the interwebs for a bit.

Liberation has played a major part in our semester – well, for those of us who took the History subject on the French Revolution, at any rate. Don’t worry. We’re not wearing red caps or singing the Marseillaise or starting bread riots or anything like that. We also did Theology and Literature; for the latter, the postulants and second-year novice were treated to poetry, while we first-year novices studied fourteenth-century literature. We are now all brushed up on The Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena and St Vincent Ferrer’s Spiritual Treatise, which, besides being most interesting from a literature point of view, give excellent guidance on the spiritual life. I can highly recommend them.
We’ve also been having classes on the Passions, as drawn from the Summa, from Fr Belisle, which have been extremely informative, not to mention entertaining. (Did *you* know that St Thomas himself recommends “Sleep And Baths” as effective remedies for a sorrowful heart? Go have a look in the Summa if you don’t believe me! Clearly, St Thomas was a saint of good, old-fashioned common sense…)

That’s about it for Education. That brings me to Easter. Holy Week and Easter in the Convent are extra special, and you’ll just have to experience it for yourself to find out what I mean, because I’m not good enough with words to describe it satisfactorily. In fact, one of our postulants made it an even special-er week (see, it’s true I’m not very good with words! What *is* the right word for “more special?” I think I’m turning into Dr Seuss…) by arriving on Spy Wednesday, just in time for the Sacred Triduum and all its deep solemnities.

I take my hat off to her – the Breviary is so different for those three days, leaving green-around-the-ears novices like myself terribly confused most of the time, that I can’t imagine how bewildering it must be if you’ve not been much acquainted at all with the Breviary before. Actually, the Breviary is markedly different for a week or two afterwards as well, causing not a little amount of stress to creatures of habit like me, especially when the aforesaid creature is being Chantress. (Being Chantress is a lovely job in Office, but it means you have to be completely on top of what’s going on at all times, and this can be hard for a Bear-Novice of Little Brain to keep up with, especially when there are dozens of extra “Alleluias” where there were none before. I am thankful for the Community’s patience.)

I digress. Easter is lovely in the Convent. Now I come to Excursions. We were so intent on our study that we held off until Ascension Thursday to go somewhere, but it was well worth the wait. The Mornington Pensinsula was graced with our presence for the day, and once again, the good God gave us perfect weather. It is so true that He looks after His little ones!



We also went to Hampton for Mass and the procession in honour of Our Lady which happened to fall on Mothers’ Day, which I thought was a most fitting thing. Then we went to a nearby beach to have our lunch, something which is always nice to have outside. (“Beach” is used somewhat euphemistically. It was more of a rocky outcrop in a bay with a patch of sand, as the pictures will show, just so you’re not expecting vistas of gold stretching into the horizon or anything like that). I had to smile when a little girl all dressed in pink came running to get a closer look at us, her unbounded excitement finding expression in a heartfelt “Awesome!!!!” when she gave pause to her flight to drink us in. The holy habit really does speak to people, despite what some of our modern friends think.

Finally, I should fill you in on Events. We’ve had a couple of feast days: January 23 was Sr Raymond’s (she got a spider cake in honour of her winning battle with our eight-legged housemates); 30 April was Mother Catherine’s (which featured no less than 3 items of entertainment – 2 songs and a play; the Novice Mistress/House Prioress’s feast day is a Big One!); 20 May was Sr Columba’s (she got a sardine-tin cake. Apparently sardines are big in Singapore); and just yesterday, June 13, was Sr Anthony’s, for which Emilyn, our hugely artistically talented postulant, decorated the whiteboard as shown below.

Sr Raymond likes her spider.
Mother Catherine aglow with Feast Day merriment.

Sr Columba, rosy-cheeked canonical novice.

The rosy-cheeked novice's feast day cake.
The work of our wildly talented Emilyn.                             
Emilyn tries to roast a marshmallow with Sr Anthony's feast day cake candle. It worked.

There was also a whole School Mass for Corpus Christi, as well as a procession to and from the Convent. Rain threatened, but held off for long enough for us to openly show our devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, our Emmanuel, or God-with-us, as Father said so eloquently in his sermon.

The Altar at the Convent.
Winding our way back to the Church.
We also had one specially delightful surprise come to usher in the holidays, and that was a shipment of…books!!! Fr Pfluger kindly brought them all the way from Goulburn, and we were rather like a group of kindergarteners in a lolly shop, we were that excited. Books are bound to find several pairs of loving, welcoming hands in a Dominican Convent J It would’ve done Dr Ludwig Ott good to see the transports of joy which another copy of his “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” caused.

Sr Thomas is delighted with our new acquisitions.

This one must be particularly interesting...
Well, I think that should just about bring you up to date.

Oh, I nearly forgot – please have a look at the tab off to the right regarding our Convent Building Project! We are growing and growing, rather like Jack’s Beanstalk, which is a truly wonderful thing, but we’re running out of room where we currently are, and we are working towards building a proper Convent. We’ve now got architect plans, but we desperately need help in terms of funds to get the project moving from potentiality to actuality, to put it in cosmological terms. Please do help if you can!

I hope you’ll keep coming back to see how we are, and we’ll try and issue the next bulletin a little sooner next time. Please keep us in your prayers – we’ll do the same for you J