Before entering the convent, I told everyone at home that I would pray for them. Since I couldn’t call, visit, or give gifts, it felt like the only thing I could do to show I cared. I could “just” pray.
So my family and friends began sending me prayer intentions in their letters. I learned about illnesses and deaths, marital difficulties and parenting issues. Engagements and weddings and pregnancies.
I jotted them all down in my little notebook, or memorized them by rote in my head, to relay to God during different times of the day. If I stubbed my toe or had to do some unpleasant task, I’d offer it up for an intention. If the intention was something particularly serious or time-sensitive, I enlisted the help of my sister postulants.
“Could you please pray for my Grandma, Sisters?” I asked the postulants in my carpool van, before class. “She’s having hip replacement surgery tomorrow.”
Sr. Marisa turned around in the driver’s seat, noticed my serious expression.
“Of course I’ll pray.” She hesitated before adding, “But don’t worry too much, Sister. A hip replacement surgery isn’t very dangerous.”
I nodded and smiled. “That’s good.”
But despite Sr. Marisa’s attempt to reassure me, I still worried about Grandma’s upcoming surgery.
Sleepless at Night
That night I lay in bed awake, listening to the hum of the heating vent above my cell curtains. I was thinking about postulant things. Duties and permissions and laundry. I was also thinking about Grandma.
You need to rest, Sister. Five a.m. comes way too soon around here.
But try as I might, sleep eluded me.
Eventually I slid on my slippers and stepped silently out of my cell.
If you can’t sleep, you might as well do something useful.
My pearly ballerina slippers led me straight to the main bathroom, which was kept brightly lit all night long. I poured some water from the sink into my big green cup, then walked into the shower area. No one would notice if I spent some time in here.
I pulled out my Rosary beads, and started pacing back and forth between the sinks and the showers. As I prayed, I offered each decade for the intentions closest and dearest to my heart. For my Grandma, and her upcoming surgery. For my youngest sister, having a tough year at school. For my sister friends, whose families opposed their decision to enter the convent.
I prayed for healing and understanding and something else, something I couldn’t put into words. It was less a prayer of words, than a prayer of desire. I stood before the Lord and pleaded that whatever was right, would happen. That whatever God wanted, would be accomplished. Most of all, I prayed that no matter what happened, God would protect all the people He’d placed in the shelter of my prayers.
Twenty, thirty minutes passed. Maybe more. Only when my feet started dragging and my mind calmed down did I return to my cell.
That was one of my first nights spent in prayer, but it wasn’t the last.
My family and friends soon wrote me more letters, with more intentions. Some of my prayers had been answered. For every answered prayer, I received multiple new intentions.
They aren’t just sending these intentions to give me something to do, I realized. They’re depending on me.
“Oh Lord,” I prayed, “you know that I am very small, and have chosen to depend completely on You for everything. Please, if it is in Your Holy Will…answer these prayers that I’ve received. Please pray for…”
I’d pray for them, morning, noon, and evening. At Mass and Holy Hour, and during my daily rosaries.
And when the Lord seemed to think that even more was needed, I’d continue my prayer ministry deep into the night.
Night after night, my fingers swept over the rosary beads, and my feet carved a firm path across the tiled bathroom floor.
O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me...
During the day, my abundant energy was a nuisance and embarrassment. Why couldn't I stay still and quiet like the other sisters? But at night time, my energy became a gift. While the other Sisters slept, as God asked them to do, poor Sister Mary Joan kept right on going, like a strange convent Energizer Bunny.
Or maybe...like a heart, I thought, amending my analogy.
As I prayed the Rosary, it felt like I was pumping blood through a great big heart, giving oxygen and life to the rest of the body.
Like what St. Therese said, in her Story of a Soul:
"I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love...in the heart of the Church, I will be love!"
When I prayed, I felt like Saint Therese. Of all the roles within the Body of Christ, I was acting as His Heart.
I could help anyone here, in Jesus’ Sacred Heart. He would hear His poor little Mary, and answer her prayers.
Mary, He whispered, His call warm and reassuring.
O God, come to my assistance, I cried silently in return. O Lord, make haste to help me!
Thank you so much for reading! Join me next week as the New Year brings fresh experiences and a major revelation to Sister Mary Joan. :)
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.