5 AM - Rise
The morning bell broke the convent's silence with bold, inescapable tones.
Ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding…
I groaned and pressed my face into my pillow. The Sisters called this 60-second window the “heroic minute”. Would I choose to roll over and snooze? Or rise into action?
I ignored my body’s sleepy protests and climbed out of bed. My elbow knocked over my tiny alarm clock and sent it tumbling under the desk.
Ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding…
I crouched down on my hands and knees, groped for the clock in the semi-darkness. All around me in the dormitory, other postulants and novices were rising from their beds and getting ready for the day.
Ding-ding! came the final bell over the loudspeakers. My fingers gripped the smooth plastic of my clock. I raised it up in victory, tucked it inside my desk drawer. Then I tugged my sheet and bedcovers in place, laid my crucifix over my pillow, and bowed my head in prayer.
This day is all Yours, Lord. Jesus, I trust in You!
5:30 AM - Meditation
I pinned on my black chapel veil just outside the front entrance. The chapel doors were propped open wide, allowing a steady stream of sisters to enter the sanctuary. I followed them, my fingers dripping with holy water as I made a careful Sign of the Cross.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit…
It was far too early to make out Saint Cecilia’s figure in the east-facing windows. Still, I gave her a tiny nod of respect as I walked past. The stained glass depicted Cecilia receiving a twin crown of roses: white for virginity, and red for martyrdom.
Ding-ding! In the cloistered courtyard outside, a novice rang the bells for prayer.
I quickened my steps, turned down the aisle and dropped into my stall.
The air filled with the soft rustle of fabric and the gentle dropping of kneelers as each Sister knelt down for the morning offering. Afterwards, we settled into our seats for meditation.
Meditation is a period of silent mental prayer. There are many different meditation methods, but the basic steps are to 1) place yourself in God's Presence; 2) reflect on a piece of Scripture or another spiritual text; 3) converse with the Lord about what you have read, and 4) make a resolution based on what you learned.
I pulled out my copy of Conversations with God, a book of meditations on each day's Mass readings. Today's reflection was on the Gospel reading where Jesus heals a leper.
And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately.*
I read the passage over again.
I probably need healing, too, I thought.
But Jesus didn't heal the leper, until the man asked for help. Until the leper gave him permission.
Then give me permission, the Lord suggested.
In my mind, I envisioned Jesus as a surgeon, holding a scalpel. It might hurt, to be healed. But it also might make things better.
I remembered something Sr. Anna had said, during postulant class. "The Lord doesn't always choose to heal us physically. But He always wants to heal us spiritually."
Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean, I prayed along with the leper. Praying for healing, of any kind. For my back, which bothered me even as I stirred restlessly in my chapel stall. For my mind, which dragged me down with negative, discouraging thoughts. For my spirit, and the wound I didn't understand but knew was always there: a sleeping beast boarded up in the closet of my soul.
Please Lord: I want to be healed. Make me clean.
6 AM - Lauds (Morning Prayer)
The Sisters knelt at the sound of the bell to say the Angelus, then rose for morning prayer.
We each turned in our stalls to face the sisters on the other side of the chapel. The sisters are Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, so when they pray the Hours, they preach to each other.
"O God, come to my assistance," I said with the left-hand side of the chapel.
"O Lord, make haste to help me," replied the right-hand side.
I bowed deeply with all the Sisters. "Glory to the Father and to the Son..."
The organist played the opening notes of our hymn, and we began:
My heart is ready, O God;
I will sing, sing your praise.
Awake, my soul;
awake, lyre and harp,
I will awake the dawn.**
I chanted with the Sisters, my heart light and happy. The beautiful verses and music uplifted my soul. The standing and sitting, kneeling and bowing. The complete “liturgical ballet”. What wasn’t to love?
Soon the morning sun made the chapel interior come alive with blazing colors. Rays of red and gold, white and blue, wafted down on my hands, and across my emerald Office book.
I remembered my prayer from morning meditation.
Please, Lord, I want to be healed. O Lord, make me clean!
Thank you so much for reading! Join me next week to discover more about the daily life of a postulant! 😊
Please click here to view the Sisters of Saint Cecilia’s full daily schedule.
Bonus Photo: Here is a picture of me and Lisa from her visit to Michigan last weekend. It was wonderful to spend time together in person. So grateful that the Lord brought us together, both inside and outside our convent experiences!
* See Matthew 8:1-4, Luke 5:12-16, Mark 1:40-45
** See Psalm 108