My daughter entered a local monastery to start off on her path in life as a cloistered Carmelite nun. Since she was a little girl, I have always sensed she would one day become a nun. She is only 19 years old, very beautiful inside and out, and a joy who will be greatly missed by many. I am weeping and miss her so very much just writing about her.
That day was just a couple of weeks ago on June 27th, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord. Her dad and some of her siblings and I were witnesses of her entrance into Carmel. She was in my car as we drove down the freeway, acting every bit the girl I’ve always known. We talked and listened to music on the radio. She acted silly as we bantered back and forth with our usual routine of one our favorite on-going conversations. She argued with her younger brother to be quiet and stop bugging her. Everything just seemed so normal. Then she appeared to be a bit anxious as we got closer to our destination. She said she was getting nervous. Then she looked over at me. I will never forget the look on her face. A part of me wanted to say “noooooo!” yet most of me found a bitter sweet joy inside as I looked over to see her pretty brow furrowed. My heart held back its inevitable breaking as I thanked God for such a great honor and gift He bestowed on all of us. Who are we, and who is she, that God called one of our own to be fully joined to Himself?
“Praise be to Jesus!”, as the Sisters in the monastery say. Yes, praise be to Jesus indeed!
We turned into the parking lot of the monastery and waited for the rest of those joining us. A beautiful wood beam and stone building, it is nestled on some acreage in the outskirts of the city. Approaching the front walk, one can sense a deep peace. We knocked on the heavy wooden front door where a volunteer answered and welcomed us to come inside. Upon entering it, the peace became palpable. We were greeted by a beautiful, small chapel directly ahead of us. Jesus in the tabernacle was front and center in our view. How my heart needed His comfort at this time! We walked through the vestibule where the volunteer proceeded to fill us in as to what we should expect for the Entrance ceremony, but first said we could have a few moments alone in an adjacent private room.
We all gathered around our little nun to say our goodbyes. I asked her dad if he wouldn’t mind saying a quick prayer, thinking I would say one next. That’s when all the emotions hit us full force. He is my husband from my first marriage and father to all seven of my children. As a side note, our marriage has been annulled for many years and God has healed that relationship to such a point that it is truly a miracle of His love. So as I listened to the heartfelt prayer and words of blessing that came out of that man, her father and my former husband, I could hardly believe how powerful they were! No other words or prayers from any of us were needed. I remember looking at him and thinking, who are you?
It is so very true that the words of a father to his children can either make or break a child. A father’s blessing can uplift and a father’s curse can destroy, no matter how old the child, no matter how many years ago it was. How very grateful to God that I was to be able to witness this most intimate of moments, this father blessing his beloved daughter. He lost it. He started to sob and weep and continued for the duration of the ceremony. We were all weeping from there on as well. None of us could contain ourselves. Her dad said it was like he was giving away his beautiful daughter in marriage. And what a bridegroom! The King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus the Christ!
We left our private room and rejoined the volunteer to begin with the ceremony. Our daughter was given a lit candle and asked to knock on an inner door three times. When she did, the sisters opened the door wide and greeted her with beaming smiles, welcoming her to enter the inner chambers of the monastery. They told us to wait in the chapel where we would next see her behind the wall separating the public from the sisters and wearing a new habit, the jumper and veil clothing worn as a first year sister. We all sat in the same pew and waited a few moments. And then there she was, surrounded by the sisters singing such beautiful songs of joy. Could a family cry any harder? It was all so beautiful! The atmosphere was filled with such a deep and abiding peace and love, we just knew God was truly there.
All too quickly the Entrance ceremony was over and we were ushered into the visiting room where we could then talk in private to Mother Prioress, the Sister of Novitiates, and to our dear new Sister in Christ. The visiting room is separated by a wall, similar to the one in the chapel, which consists of a metal grill with large enough openings so visitors can hug their family member. We had a long conversation with the sisters in what to expect and the training she will receive. Then we took pictures of our daughter in her new habit. We were told we can visit once a month, a practice they voluntarily keep, so they can more fully concentrate on their life of prayer. She will be learning all about life in the monastery for six years, a sort of engagement period, first as a postulant, then as a novice, before making solemn vows as a full-fledged cloistered sister of the Discalced Carmelites. She can walk away at any time up until that moment should she discern this life is not for her. As the sisters talked, I looked at my daughter’s face. It radiated with such joy and peace that I had a hard time imagining she would ever leave.
Oh so quickly our time together had to end. The sisters were calling her to Vespers of the Divine Office, a part of the prayer of the Catholic Church. We all said our tearful good byes with promises of seeing her in a couple of months. Her father was the last to leave the visitors room. I watched as they had a quick intimate moment together, whispering words I could not hear. Of everything that happened that day, I am so very grateful that her last moments together were of that scene before me, the love and blessings of her Father to his beloved Daughter. I am still weeping as I write this . . .
Oh Lord God, Heavenly Father, give us, your children here on earth, a powerful blessing of love. Grant that we might know intimately Your love for us, yes truly know this Love deep within our beings. We ask this through Your beautiful Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
And as the Sisters of Mt Carmel say, “Praise be to Jesus!”