I was going to write something about the Newtown tragedy today, but anything I write would pale in comparison to the perfectly written, unbelievably profound article written by my sister India’s friend Jennifer Crumpton. Read it!!:
Instead, I will share some seemingly small, but very exciting news: I rang the Angelus bell this morning.
That statement might not seem like such a big deal at first, but when taken in the context that I am a Postulant in month two of this Community, it means the world to me.
The Angelus is a prayer that is said in religious communities three times a day. Here at CSJB we say it at 6AM, Noon and 6PM. For those of you who want to know the full story on the history and tradition of the Angelus, here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelus
Last night around 9PM Sister Pamela (the tiny English Sister) offhandedly mentioned to me “So – are you all right to do the early work tomorrow then?” and I was seized with terror. “Um – what???” I looked at her with dazed possum-eyes. “Didn’t you look at the schedule on Maureen’s door?” she asked, “You’re on to do the Angelus tomorrow morning.”
Sister Pam had shown me how to do the Angelus and the “early work” last Tuesday. It involves unlocking the doors, turning on lights, walking Jennie the dog and getting coffee and tea ready for breakfast but like most things around here I had thought I wasn’t going to be actually DOING it until I become a Novice in May. I told Sister Pam this and she said “No, no. You’re in the mix now. You’re on tomorrow morning.”
After the initial abject petrification had worn off just a little, I got excited. One of the biggest frustrations of being an Aspirant, and then a Postulant, is that I’m not fully included in all the schedules and activities of the Community just yet. There are so many would-be monks and nuns who come and go in communities that they can’t just plunge you in to everything before you and they are ready. It’s like moving in with someone on the first date.
I understand this intellectually of course, but there’s still the little-kid part of me who wants to be one of the gang and hang with the big kids. Even though the Sisters do include me in almost everything, and they pat me on the back and say “Don’t worry – you’ll be doing this soon too.” when I’m not included, I get a little sad when I see the pack running off to do something that I’m not yet a part of. I revert to being three years old and watching my cousins ride 2-wheeled bikes all over the place while I feel small and uncoordinated and inadequate.
The workaholic, people-pleasing part of me (which is colossal) also thinks that, because I’m not yet part of the schedule of serious grown-up tasks around here, I might be perceived as not pulling my weight. I worry that the Sisters might think I’m just lying around in my room reading St. Augustine and daydreaming when I’m not doing something for them. Now, nobody has ever actually SAID this to me and I have zero evidence that anyone actually THINKS this, but hey – I’m neurotic and my neurotic mind thinks everybody thinks all kinds of thoughts and thinkity thinking think things. Never mind the fact that in therapy my poor, poor shrink would tell me over and over “What other people think of you is none of your business.” I think my shrink thought I was an overthinking thinker.
Anyway – the “early work” and the Angelus are a big part of the tasks here at the Convent, and everybody participates equally. All this time, since I was received as a Postulant Oct. 16, I’ve felt guilty that I wasn’t doing that particular part of the Community tasks. The work involves getting up at 5AM, making sure all the tea kettles and coffee and breakfast items are ready, then ringing the Angelus bell at 6AM on the dot while reciting the Angelus silently, and it also involves walking Jennie and making sure she goes “pee pee potty.” Whenever a Sister would mention to me that she’d done the Angelus that morning I would feel sorry for her, knowing she was tired and that just the act of getting Jennie out of bed (that dog LOVES to sleep) is pretty monumental. Jennie is mostly a Treeing Walker Coonhound, and the wiki on her is worth reading because parts of it are so her, and are truly hilarious: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treeing_Walker_Coonhound
I was so excited that I was going to be doing the Angelus that I hardly slept at all last night. I kept thinking “NOW I am almost kind of sort of a full participant in the Community!! I’m doing my part! I’m pulling my weight! People are going to rejoice and marvel at my tea-making and coffee preparation skills tomorrow morning. That is for SURE!!!!”
I didn’t get up at 5AM. I got up at 4:30. I didn’t just make sure Jennie pee peed, but that she ALSO pottied. I proudly walked her around in the early morning drizzle, holding the umbrella over her because I’m savvy, and I know that if she gets wet it’s impossible to dry her off because she thinks the towel is a bullfighting game, and she just runs through it like a maniac and then gets irretrievably hyper and runs up and down the stairs 35 times.
I made a few little mistakes which Sister Pam very politely pointed out after breakfast to me for next time, but I think I did an ok job and I managed to ring the Angelus bell correctly – 3 sets of 3, then 9 times – on time, without a Sister having to stage-whisper to me (we’re in the Great Stage-Whispering-Silence till after 10AM) “Is it your morning? It’s 1.5 minutes past six! Ring the bell!!!” so – whew.
Most of all, I did it. I rang the Angelus and I did my part for my Sisters. I am always looking for ways to be useful and show my gratitude for the privilege of being here and living my life in God’s service. Even when our electricity was out for 2 weeks, the Sisters went down to the kitchen every morning and made breakfast ready for all of us and rang the bell, and now I can do my small part to say thank you.
Everything I do here, I do for God. Even getting up at 5AM and schlepping a little silly dog around in the rain doesn’t feel like work. It feels right.
Jennie and Sister Laura Katherine