Saturday, September 2, 2023


     Now that I am living in this new place, in relationship with this new monastery, I am beginning to see myself and my own solitary monastic vocation in a new light. I am in a country that values hermits. It is a striking change from my native U.S., where "loners" are generally viewed with suspicion, as sick, maladjusted, and probably dangerous misfits. Here, I am welcomed, appreciated. My imposter syndrome is fading away. The old ladies in the village are pleased to have me here. And the monks, whose community life I admire so deeply, seem to feel the same about me and my solitary life. 

    I think I could not live in community as they do, as much as I admire the way they care for and support each other. I'm very tempted by the green, green grass on that side of the fence (or rather, the cloister wall)! But I am a wild-sister, I bloom in a hidden hollow, I think the careful tending in a garden would suffocate me. I need quiet, and lots of it. I need privacy, to live unmasked, free to talk to myself out loud, sing and dance if I feel like it, go braless, cuss out my computer. I think the constant presence of others sharing my home space would wear me out very quickly. 

    I am a wild-sister, in that I fit only very roughly within the confines of my religion. I've studied the Catechism with interest, but I certainly don't believe everything it says, and I don't feel the slightest bit wrong about that. I don't believe in Hell, for example, not in the sense of eternal damnation -- Hell is what some people live through in this life here. After death, I firmly believe, there is only consolation. And I do not accept the authority of the bishops or of the magisterium over my own conscience or the conscience of my fellow humans. I do find nourishment in Scripture, but it is not my main staple as it is for the monks. We share a love for the Eucharist in common! But God speaks to me more clearly out in the wild woods and the meadows than in any book of the Bible.

    I'm a wild-sister, because I didn't learn about God in Sunday School. God harrowed Hell for my soul, and saved me from the Hell of depression and PTSD. From the depths I cried out to a God I didn't believe in, and God responded with a love beyond any other love I've known before or since. My life experience, and my religious experience, has led through the world's margins, with the marginalized: the addicts, the refugees, the violent and the victims.

    I am a wild-sister, because 45 minutes into an hour-long meditation before the Blessed Sacrament yesterday, I caught fire, left the planet with my Beloved, lost my mind, fell in love all over again, and probably seriously disturbed the peace of mind of any of those dear garden-monks who happened to glance in my direction ... sat through Vespers in a state of afterglow, trying and failing to sing the psalms, and was still half trembling through morning Mass. 

    I am a wild-sister, because my love for God is passionate, ecstatic, joyful, free, and unreserved. Because I experience God's love for me as even more passionate, as deep as Earth's core, as magnificent as the act of Creation itself, boundless beyond time and space and far beyond imagination, beyond death and the grave itself. And, I experience God's love for me as tender, gentle, intimate, patient, tentative, even vulnerable as only a lover can be. I have absolute conviction that God's love never fails, never wavers, that there is nothing that I could ever do to forfeit it. I cannot lose God's love, and I choose to fall into it, up-anchor and let myself be swept, rudderless, far out on the wild ocean of God's power, where I become ever more free and more fully alive. All God ever asks of me is everything, my whole self, heart and soul, body and mind, ego and will ... and the more I surrender, the more I am filled up.

    No, I am not a tame garden-sister. I am grateful to be welcomed to put down roots on the margins of this walled monastery garden, smiled at and not treated like a weed. I love what they have, I admire them and their life, I find myself wishing I could be a part of it. And, it seems, they also admire my solitary freedom and my contemplative fire. There is scope for cross-pollination, mutual influence; I can settle down some, they can get a little carried away. But I am still the wild hermit sister, adapting to this new habitat, but still blooming wild in the secret of solitude. 



  1. " I certainly don't believe everything it says, and I don't feel the slightest bit wrong about that. I don't believe in Hell, for example, not in the sense of eternal damnation"

    About 20 years ago, more or less, my mother, your grandmother appeared outside the trailer we were living in. I saw her through the window, looking young and vibrant, maybe in her thirties, dressed in clothing that was current when she was that age. The landscape out the window was replaced with gently rolling hills full of living (!) flowers of colors that were so intense and vivid, colors we don't really have here. She was joyful, and said just one thing before the whole scene disappeared: "There is only forgiveness."

    1. Oh Spyder, thank you so much for telling me this! Wonderful!