And Ten There were Nuns:
Adventures in a Cloistered Life
By Jane Christmas
To be published by Lion Books, February 21st 2014
Jane is a fifty-something Candian woman from a mixed Anglican/RC family who has been twice divorced and is in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend who is living in the UK. Before she makes her final decision to marry him, she decides that she finally has to listen to the small, nagging voice which has been encouraging her since her teenage years to explore the monastic life - so she sets out to visit the Anglican Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto to test her vocation.
From there she heads to the UK, to stay at the Roman Catholic Quarr Abbey and St Cecilia's Abbey, both on the Isle of Wight before heading north to Whitby and the Anglican Order of the Holy Paraclete's St Hilda's Priory, which is based at Sneaton Castle. She has a variety of experiences, some religious, some very secular, some good and some very unpleasant indeed and she discovers that not everyone is welcoming of a wannabee nun of her age and life background. Gradually, she comes to realise that before she can tackle the idea of becoming a nun, she needs to properly deal with the emotional and psychological aftermath of a sexual attack she suffered many years previously.......
The book is well-written, with some passages that were poetically arresting in their imagery: "On the surface, praying seems easy. Knit your eyebrows in concentration, mutter a few words, and then get on with your day. It’s not like that in a convent. Think of the hardest job you could do—mining comes to my mind—and then imagine doing that in silence and in a dress.
Every day the sisters descended into the Pit of the Soul, picked at the seam of despair, sadness, tragedy, death, sickness, grief, destruction, and poverty, loaded it all onto a cart marked “For God,” and hauled it up from the depths of concern to the surface of mercy, where they cleaned it and polished it. It was heavy, laborious work."
but then I would find myself harumphing furiously over her very passionate proclamation that the Anglican communion's "discrimination" against women was akin to racism, and later in the book, she states that:
"The way women are treated by the church reminds me of
my rape. Like rape, exclusion and bullying are emotional violations
intended to punish, to subdue, to “teach a lesson,” and
to assert the oppressor’s domination."
- which is a very blanket condemnation of a Church in which I grew up and spent my early adult life, and never, ever encountered anything even remotely akin to the behaviour she describes.
I won't spoil the ending, but it is a very interesting book and one I will definitely read again, even though she and I are diametrically opposed in our viewpoints on the ordination of women :-)