There was no sign reading 'monastery' or 'convent.' Brick sidewalks stretched almost to the doorways. There were no front yards. The only monasteries I'd been to before this were miles away from towns, separated from the 'outer word' by fields or forests. Could we have been given the wrong address? I wondered.
Eventually we found an entrance to our destination and yes, here was the monastery - just a few feet from the street. It sat surrounded by cars, pedestrians, and lots and lots of noise. Its outside blended in perfectly with every other building.
'Their thoughts are fixed on God, not on the world; still less on the casual street that runs by their door.' wrote the Lathrops of this spot. 'A narrow strip of grass, railed in by a light iron fence, separates their dwelling from the sidewalk, and gives them an added safeguard in their retirement. All this is in accord with the aims of a community like that of the Visitation. Their object is … to prevent the intrusion of careless, worldly, noisy people, who may be inclined to invade the seclusion and sanctity of a life wholly ordered and consecrated to spiritual purposes. (A Story of Courage, p. 7)
'The countenance, then, if one may so describe it, of this building is calm, neutral, neither repelling nor inviting... it is in no way demonstrative. From a distance you cannot even distinguish it from other buildings. It does not dominate them. It does not tower up, or threaten, or warn you away... It simply stands there, and waits..'
Standing shoulder to shoulder with others, in the middle of the world all around me, I'm situated precisely where I need to be.
I am at the exact right address for a cloistered heart.
Photo at top: Georgetown Visitation DC, 2002, N Shuman
Photo of crowd from Pixabay
Text not in quotes © 2016 N Shuman