12:30 PM – Midday Meal
After noon prayers in the main chapel, we headed to the kitchen for lunch. Today's menu consisted of leftovers from dinner two nights before, as well as bread, cottage cheese, peanut butter, and fruit.
Once I made up my plate, I sat beside the other postulants on one side of the refectory. During the meal, we listened to a presentation by Father Benedict Groeschel on the different levels of the spiritual life.
“The first level is the purgative way," said Father Groeschel. This is a time of purification and detachment, he explained. The soul is growing in virtue and learning to turn towards God. "For anyone growing in the spiritual life, there are three levels: the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways."
So which level am I in?
I thought of all the negative noise in my head, and how much it had hurt to give up all my possessions, before entering the convent.
Purgative, I decided. Definitely purgative.
Sister Joanna had lately offered me this encouragement: “Saint John of the Cross says that a soul in the purgative state is like a wet log. It wants to catch fire and burn with God’s love, but at first it just smokes and smolders.”
“Well, that’s me right now, Sister,” I laughed. “A smoking log. No fires burning in me yet—except maybe with frustration.”
1:15 PM – Rosary Walk
It sounded pleasant enough: a lovely Rosary walk around the Motherhouse grounds. I liked to pray the Rosary, and I loved to walk: this would be the perfect combo.
Unfortunately for me, however, the Rosary walk was slow. The Sisters walked their rosary at a pace even snails, turtles, and first-time drivers could keep up with.
“The Rosary Walk should be conducted at a moderate pace,” Sister Anna had taught us, “to facilitate meditation.”
Whatever I was doing at that moment, it was not meditation. I couldn’t think about the mysteries or the Hail Marys, just how to avoid clipping the shoes of the sister in front of me.
Lord Jesus, I can't pray right now. Please take all this frustration inside of me. Make it into something useful to You.
My fingers clutched the Rosary beads, as I prayed my Hail Marys between clenched teeth.
The sluggish pace. The confined lines of postulants and novices. The Nashville heat on my black postulant clothes. I didn't like it one bit.
But I gave that to the Lord, too.
Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I trust in You.
1:30 pm - Outdoor Recreation
We ended our Rosary walk with a final Sign of the Cross.
“Whee!” I shouted, running wild across the Motherhouse lawn. My blue work apron flapped against my knees. “Hooray, it’s talking time!!!”
The other Sisters laughed at me. After a mostly silent morning and the confining Rosary walk, I was ready to run free!
The lead novice started setting up cones on the grassy field.
"What's the game today, Sister?"
“Yes!” I jumped up and down with pleasure, then ran another lap. Sr. Lucia, one of the few sisters in our group with as much energy as me, started running laps, too. Her auburn braid swung cheerfully behind her.
Each afternoon, the novices planned different activities for our outdoor recreation. We played soccer, ultimate frisbee, basketball, and even netball, taught to us by the Australian sisters.
During my first few outdoor recreations, I had felt a little nervous. Was this going to be a repeat of my sixth grade gym class, where the popular kids got picked first for teams, and no one bothered to teach sports delinquents like me how to play the game?
“Alright everybody, circle up!” cried Sr. Therese. “We’re going to split into two teams, so count off 1 and 2…”
I was on team 2, with Sr. Lucia and several other athletic sisters.
"Sister, do you want to throw the first frisbee for us?" asked Sr. Therese.
I glanced around, realized she was talking to me. The enthusiastic but less than competent sports delinquent.
"I don't know," I said, shying away from the outstretched frisbee. "Someone else could do it better."
"I saw you throw it last time we played," another postulant said. "You did just fine."
"Just remember to keep it level, and visualize where you want the frisbee to go," Sr. Therese coached.
The other team was restless, so I seized the frisbee. Squinting, I looked down the field at the line of blue-aproned postulants and novices, waiting for my pitch. Or, whatever you call it. I kept my arm steady, imagined the frisbee soaring above their heads.
"Saint Dominic!" I called out, as I released the frisbee.
"Pray for us!" the Sisters answered. The other team stampeded towards the frisbee. It didn't go a long distance, but I had managed to keep it straight, towards the center of the field.
"I did it!"
"Good job, Sister Mary Joan!" said Sr. Therese.
"Yeah, just keep practicing," echoed the other Sisters.
I ran back across the field with the rest of my team, a huge grin on my face.
For the first time in my life, I was enjoying this thing called organized sports. And it had happened, of all places, in a convent.
Thank you so much for reading! Join me next week as I close my grand tour of a postulant's day...and introduce a very important sister and friend! ;)
About the Author:
Mary Rose Kreger lives in the metro Detroit area with her family, where she writes fantasy for teens, and blogs about her spiritual journey: before, during, and after the convent. Mary also shares faith and fantasy quotes on her Instagram account,@faithandfantasy1.