I enjoy following the blog of the Dominican nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey. Even if I do not find myself called to the religious life, it is fascinating to get a glimpse of the lives of these women who have left the world to dedicate themselves full-time to prayer.
After having followed the blog for quite some time, I learned a thing or two from these contemplative nuns about how to live my own vocation as an ordinary Catholic living in the world. Paradoxically, these nuns who live apart from the world show how to enjoy the good things of the world in a good way.
My favorite entries in the blog are about how the nuns spend the extra recreation time they have on special days. The wholesome ways these nuns recreate edify me.
As the word suggests, “recreation” is supposed to “re-create” us. Our leisure time – whether we call it “recreation”, “rest”, “chilling”, “self-care”, “me-time”, “entertainment”, etc. — should refresh our energies and make us better persons, not worse. Unfortunately, we often do not know how to spend our leisure time, and end up doing it by wasting time and wasting ourselves.
Fortunately, most of us realize this and yearn for alternatives to, for example, Facebook bingeing. But we often run out of ideas of what to do during our leisure time.
The Dominican nuns’ blog is a repository of girl-bonding ideas. For example, in the entry on their celebration of Halloween, we read:
“Most years at least some of the sisters dress up as Saints or other creative characters, and the novitiate has been turning out not only some fantastic costumes but some expertly carved pumpkins as well! The pumpkins this year were all home-grown in Sr. Mary Ana’s pumpkin patch. There were enough for even some professed sisters to get in on the pumpkin carving. The carvings: Sr. Lauren did the dog with a torch, Sr. Joseph Maria did the mouse that went with Sr. Maria Johanna’s amazing St. Martin de Porres, Sr. Mary Ana did the Eucharist in the monastrance, and Sr. Lucia Marie did a Dominican nun. Sr. Mary Magdalene and Sr. Mary Veronica worked together on a carved image of the monastery with its new wing!
We didn’t have quite as many Saints visiting our party this year, but there was no lack of creativity! Sr. Lucia Marie came as a Christian rapper, Sr. Lauren came as a ‘Summit Postulant’ stained glass window, Sr. Mary Ana came as Moses (and not just any Moses, but Moses from the Transfiguration!), Sr. Maria Johanna continued her theme of apparitions of the Blessed Mother by coming as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sr. Joseph Maria came as St. Juan Diego, and Sr. Mary Magdalene came as the Dominican St. Louis Bertrand.”
In other words, those nuns spend their leisure time developing their talents, and enjoying each other’s’ talents and company.
I am also struck that those nuns, who usually eat their meals in silence while listening to a taped lecture or a spiritual reading, look forward to the “rare treat” of conversation during meals on special feasts.
In the world, many have forgotten the pleasure of a good conversation. Most of the time, we eat in silence not because we are praying like those nuns (who are, strictly speaking, also engaged in a conversation when they do that) but because we or the person we are eating with is glued to his or her mobile phone or tablet.
Being an introvert myself, I do not always relish conversation during meals. But I am learning to value it and even enjoy it. A good conversation fulfills our need to share parts of ourselves to others, and to widen our own worlds by listening to what others have to share. A good conversation is an occasion for many “what, you too!” moments which, according to C.S. Lewis, are the beginnings of new friendships.
We who live in the world have more recreation options than those nuns. We can learn from those nuns how to choose wisely among the options available by being open to trying new things, appreciative of simple pleasures, and interested in the others’ interests. This way, our recreation times shall be truly opportunities to “re-create” ourselves.
Perhaps the next time I want to try a new activity with my friends, I’ll turn to the Dominicans nuns’ blog for ideas.