In This Small Spot

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Authors: Caren Werlinger
Tags: Gay & Lesbian, Women's Fiction, Lesbian Fiction, Nuns, convent
for private sleeping quarters. Your meals will
be taken in a small room off the refectory. You will not
participate in the Office, although you may listen to it, and you
will not be doing any work, since the focus of the week is to be
prayer and reflection.”
    During her meeting explaining the retreat to
the five postulants, Sister Rosaria told them who their spiritual
advisors were. To Mickey’s mortification, hers was Sister Anselma.
The seniors serving as advisors had all received intense training
in guiding the retreat process. “Our task is to listen,” they would
have said – listen to the retreatant, and listen for God’s whispers
pointing the way to a meaningful experience. The advisors were also
very much aware that the retreat process could bring up intense
emotional issues. Things easily suppressed under the busy-ness of
daily life often surfaced in the stillness and silence. The retreat
process could have a profound impact, not only on someone’s
psychological state, but also on a shaky vocation. “More than one
woman had left the abbey after a difficult retreat,” Sister Rosaria
warned them. “This is nothing to be ashamed of. Monastic life is
not for everyone. Even those with a true vocation may find that
this retreat simply points them down another path.”
    “Don’t fool yourselves into thinking you
deserve God’s attention as a reward for entering religious life,”
Sister Renatta advised them in her last lecture – “even if the
retreat goes badly, that’s something to be grateful for,” Mickey
joked in an undertone to Tanya who immediately coughed to cover her
laugh. Sister Renatta’s eyes got misty as she continued, “Saint
Teresa of Ávila went through a dry period of nearly twenty years
without any sense that God was listening. Her perseverance was
eventually rewarded with a state of grace and communion with our
Lord that most of you will probably never experience. I myself have
experienced several moments of grace, and I can assure you they are
most stirring. Remember that you are beginners on this
journey.”
    The day before the retreat was to begin, the
postulants were all packing up their clothes and few belongings in
preparation for the move to their cells. Loudly enough for Mickey
to hear, Wendy said to Tanya, “Yeah, I’ve done this two or three
times. The most important thing is who your spiritual advisor is.
I’m so glad I didn’t get Sister Anselma, or I should say Sister
Absentia. I’ve heard she’s like some kind of ice queen – the
perfect nun with no emotions.”
    Wendy, in her snide way, had been even more
aggressive and challenging to Mickey ever since Abigail’s accident
with the knife. Mickey had forced herself to bite her tongue and
remain quiet, but finally, “Whoever you got,” she said as she
picked up the other end of Jessica’s trunk to help her carry it to
her cell, “I hope she’s smart enough to see through your
bullshit.”
    Mickey’s cell was at the end of the
corridor, next to Jessica’s. They were all furnished alike, with a
bed, a small wardrobe and a writing desk with a bookshelf on top.
Mostly what Mickey had brought with her were books. She set her
trunk at the foot of her bed, and then sat at the desk to write
Jamie an overdue letter. “I don’t know how busy all this prayer
will keep me,” she wrote, “but seven days feels like a very long
time.”
    The next day, they met with their spiritual
advisors for the first time right after Mass. Mickey was greeted by
Sister Anselma and shown into a small study near the library.
Mickey waited for Sister Anselma to sit before she took an adjacent
chair.
    “The first thing I want you to know is that
anything we discuss is as confidential as the confessional,” Sister
Anselma began. “I would only repeat our conversations to Mother if
I felt it was absolutely necessary, and then only with your
permission.”
    Mickey was watching her grey eyes intently
as she spoke. This was the first time

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