Lathrops visited for A Story of Courage.
As we've seen in our recent posts, this
monastery is not in mountains or meadow, but situated right in the hubub of Georgetown, DC.
'There was a lush cloister
garden,' I wrote several years ago, 'and it was separated from the streets by high walls. My plan was to
sit with Bible and journal and gather together scattered threads of
thoughts and prayers. The sounds of traffic around? No problem. I
looked upon those as bits of minor background noise. I would spend the day
with God, in peace. An ideal set up for serenity.
That is, until the band.
From a campus nearby, there were sudden sounds of an outdoor concert. A
LOUD outdoor concert. I sat in the garden surrounded by trees, holy
statues, birds, and THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD. Thud thud thuds out of context, setting my
nerves on end. Suddenly, ordinary street sounds began to unsettle me.
How long had there been planes flying overhead, one after another, and
so close-by? The city seemed filled with sirens. Voices shouted, just
outside the enclosure walls. Oh dear. However could I pray?
And then it was time for Midday Prayer. A bell rang, the Sisters
gathered. As a retreatant, I joined them. We began the chant. One
Sister quietly closed shutters to hush metallic thuds. That didn’t help, but the nuns sang on
undaunted. “O Lord, open my lips”THUDTHUDTHUD“and my mouth shall
proc” THRUMP THUDTHUMPTHUD “…laim your praise…”
I was suddenly struck by the
incongruity of it all. Sirens, traffic, shouting, planes, THUDs, chant.
But more than that: I was astonished by beauty. By the intense, amazing
beauty I was witnessing all around. One Sister said, just before I
left, that she was sorry
I’d been there at such a noisy time. Oh no, I assured her; I had been
there at the perfect time.
I had seen the analogy of 'the
cloistered heart' in a whole new way, not in spite of the noises, but
because of them. No matter what went on outside, the nuns were there
to praise God, and they would do it undaunted.
Probably the Sisters didn’t 'feel' very prayerful as they chanted praises they could barely
hear, but they were singing to Another, and He could hear them.
there are days when one of them doesn’t 'feel prayerful,' but she
comes at the sound of the bell and she praises God. Why? Because He deserves it.
He deserves praise and worship with the whole of one’s being.
matter the noises, no matter the weather, no matter the situations
around any of us, God is present.
God is present and He is worthy of praise. Period.
(this is an edited post from our archives)
Photos of Georgetown Visitation, N. Shuman, 1990s
This post is part of our series 'A Story of Courage.' To continue in chronological order, click this line.