"I sometimes imagine that I long for the seclusion of a nunnery. But I know that I must seek You among people, out in the world." Etty Hillesum, my new hero
When I went to California this summer, I stayed at a Carmelite Monastery on the side of a cliff overlooking the city. It was set in a normal San Diego neighborhood, but once in the monastery, a whole new world appeared to me. The moment I walked into the quiet, dark and somewhat mysterious home of 14 Catholic sisters, I immediately became overwhelmed by the purity of it all. The women were genuine, their love clear and their hospitality inspirational. I got to spend some time with a darling nun named Sister Yvonne. We discussed my life, her life, the mission of the Carmelites, their struggles, my struggles, their need to find a place in the world, my need to find a place in the world, and our unified love for God.
It was special, yes, and I knew that at the time... but I look back on those few days with some of the most incredible and dedicated women I have ever met and my heart is tender. You know that feeling? It's relatively the same feeling I get when I think about my brothers and sisters in Africa (to a smaller extent)- but it's the feeling that there is something very sacred about that place, those people and that time. Sacred. Set apart. Holy. My heart aches to return.
And I'm not saying that I will become a nun- although let's be honest, it is possible- but I will say that I long to be a part of something like that. Something that is so community oriented, but not just community for community's sake- real, genuine desire to be a family with the common goal of Christ. The unified acceptance that our purpose is not our own. We are not made for the world or for our desires, but for something greater. Something more meaningful. Harder. Beyond ourselves.
Although I did have to dance around the fact that I was traveling with a boy, the nuns accepted me as the Protestant wanderer that I am. And Sister Yvonne... oh Sister Yvonne, she was genuinely interested in my life and the places God has taken me. We prayed together, and actually cried together- albeit most of the crying was from yours truly but they were tears of joy and relief- and something very beautiful developed in that monastery and in our conversations.
I do not know why I felt like writing a blog about the Carmelites of San Diego, but I do know that they now hold a special place in my heart. And I want to write a book about them or about my experience with them. Because they are wonderful. And beautiful. And inspirational. And sacred.