Saturday, 27 October 2012


So, blogging world, I have decided to move. As of now I am now on Wordpress. I've imported all my posts over there but I will also leave them here. So if you want to continue reading, my new address is:

I hope to see you there! 

Friday, 26 October 2012


I am starting to think my confusion is not what I originally thought it was. I thought I was unsure of what my vocation is. I am realising more and more that I really do believe that God's will for my life is the religious life. My doubts are not so much about what my calling is but the realities of following that. 

I loved the cloistered life. I realised that when I was writing my post on enclosure. I remembered how much I loved it there and how complete I felt living that life. I remembered how much I seemed to just fit into that life. I remembered Mother Mistress asking me if there was anything I didn't like about it and being totally unable to come up with anything. In the most literal sense, I had nothing bad to say. It was so wonderful in ways that I couldn't possibly imagine. And I was so sure there that God was calling me there.

Since I left I've become so much more aware of what I'm giving up for that life. I know the rewards of the life, I've seen it, but the doubt is whether I can do it. I feel terrible for thinking that. How can I be even thinking of not doing His will? There is only one thing holding me back, and I feel terrible that a human person could possibly be more important to me than doing the will of God. There are times when I think "okay, it will be hard but I can do it." Then there are times when I think "how can I be giving up someone who means this much to me?" But then God means even more to me! How can I possibly choose something else over him? 

I'm reminded of something that happened at recreation one Sunday. I was sat next to one of the very elderly sisters, Sister MB. Sister E was sat on the other side of her and she said "Tell Emily how long you've been here." So Sister MB turns to me and says "I've been here for 63 years." She paused for a moment and said, "And you know what, I haven't regretted it for a moment." In this sweet elderly sister was this fierce passion and devotion to the life she had chosen. It was one of the most profound moments of my life, and I remembered thinking that I want my life to be like that. I want that. I want to be that old and be able to think "I made the right choice". I just wish I knew what the right choice was. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Thoughts on Enclosure

I was reading a blog post by someone who had been to Mass and some of the Offices at St. Cecilia's. They expressed pity for the nuns. They talked of the nuns being trapped and lacking in freedom. I almost commented to them in response but decided it was the perfect opportunity to post on the enclosure.

I loved the enclosure. I thought it was beautiful. It never felt enclosing. It felt so natural. The grille is as much a part of the abbey as the ceiling or the walls.  One of the first things I read in the enclosure was Verbi Sponsa: Instruction on the Contemplative Life and on the Enclosure of Nuns. It is one of the most beautiful texts I have ever read, and I thoroughly recommend it.
In watchful waiting for the Lord's return, the cloister becomes a response to the absolute love of God for His creature and the fulfilment of His eternal desire to welcome the creature into the mystery of intimacy with the Word, who gave Himself as Bridegroom in the Eucharist and remains in the tabernacle as the heart of full communion with Him, drawing to Himself the entire life of the cloistered nun in order to offer it constantly to the Father. To the gift of Christ the Bridegroom, who on the Cross offered His body unreservedly, the nun responds in like terms with the gift of the "body", offering herself with Jesus Christ to the Father and cooperating with Him in the work of redemption. Separation from the world thus gives a Eucharistic quality to the whole of cloistered life, since "besides its elements of sacrifice and expiation, [it assumes] the aspect of thanksgiving to the Father, by sharing in the thanksgiving of the beloved Son". (Part 1, 3)
One of the things I did for work was clean the church. This photo shows the outside church and sanctuary, although things are slightly different now. There is a low grille/fence in place of that rope and there is a new crucifix on that far wall. The choir is, obviously, on the other side of the grille on the right.

Obviously to clean the sanctuary and the church we had to go through the grille. Sister would get the key and we'd unlock the grille and open up the doors. When we were done, we'd go back down the stairs and through the grille again and lock it behind us. It was one of these simple things that was somehow still so profound. For me at least, it was a weekly reminder of everything the enclosure is. 

People associate the enclosure with imprisonment. The enclosure is many things but it is not a prison. Never have a met a group of women so happy and so fulfilled. They do not feel anything is lacking in their life. St. Cecilia's is not a small space, the abbey is spacious and fairly large and has large and beautiful gardens. But it is still not the same as being out in the world. There is still a physical limitation of space but it is anything but limiting. 

I managed to find this beautiful picture of the abbey. You can see just how spacious it is! My cell (the visitor's cell really) overlooked the gardens and the woods beyond the boundary of the abbey. I would stand at the window and look out at how beautiful it was. I realised after a few days that my gaze never left the abbey. I could look out beyond what was the abbey grounds but I didn't. I purposefully looked beyond the grounds but my gaze was always drawn back. That is only a simple thing, but I did not for a second in the abbey long for anything outside of it. 

The enclosure is beautifully symbolic of the total forsaking of the world, not just in possessions but in literal space. They enter into a place of God, they go into the house of their heavenly Bridegroom. Just as their lives are centred around him, so is their physical space. They have left behind the meaningless frivolities that occupy so much time for those of us here in the world. In the enclosure nothing is missing, nothing is lacking. There is not need to wander, there is no need to leave because everything that fulfils them so totally is already there. 

The cloistered nun chooses that space freely because as I have said, those things her heart longs for she finds in the enclosure and not outside of it. The enclosure is not a prison, far from it. The enclosure is place of freedom, because the nun is loosened from those bonds that tie us to worldly things. In giving herself entirely to Christ, she is made free in Him. There are so many things in the world that we think are important. Those meaningless frivolities I have already mentioned. I had thought myself before I went into the enclosure how much I would miss these things and wondered how I would cope without that. As I have already mentioned, I did not for second long for anything outside the enclosure. One might wonder why but answer is simply that I did not need them. There is nothing missing in that way of life - the fact that it has endured for millennia is a living testament to that. 

So my message here is do not pity those in the enclosure, because they do not need it. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


So last night I hit 10000 views. Right now I'm at 10047. Which is totally awesome. In less than a year at that. It is almost the 1 year anniversary of me starting this blog so I will have to come up with something super awesome to post for the 12th November. 

I will post properly later hopefully but I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads/has read my blog. It genuinely means a lot to me, and you are all in my prayers. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Some rambling

I've had one of those weekends that was just emotionally draining. I went to visit my mother and my sister was visiting as well. It was a family friend's birthday so we went out to lunch to celebrate, which is why me and my sister were visiting in the first place. I got there on Friday afternoon and left Sunday afternoon so it's not even like I was there for a long time.

I love my family, I do. But sometimes being there is exhausting. I think my blood pressure shoots up the second I step into my mother's house. I feel like I'm under constant pressure, I feel constantly stressed and on edge. I knew when I left St. Cecilia's that things weren't going to be easy with them. And that was when I was totally sure of my vocation! I can't even begin to talk about it with them because they couldn't understand when I was sure, and they'd just take my confusion as a sign that I'm not going to enter.

Despite all the confusion I have this bizarre sense that I have to go back to St. Cecilia's. I don't know why I feel like that. I don't know whether that's from God or if it's just me but it's the only sure thing I have right now. I think I said the same thing before, and possibly that says more about things than I'm seeing right now. But the thought of not going back feels wrong. I think about going back and deciding that it's not for me and that feels wrong. Going back and deciding to enter seems right. I couldn't even begin to describe why, or how I feel that, or what that even means.

I'm going to send an email to Mother Mistress soon, letting her know how I'm doing and so on. I haven't contacted her since I left in July so I really should! The other thing I've been thinking is that perhaps I need someone to talk to - an non-internet kind of someone. There's something on the vocations website for my diocese (I know the Consecrated Life section almost by heart now) so I may have to bite the bullet and ring/email Father.

On head covering

Someone pointed me to this beautiful blog post: I love my chapel veil. I've posted before on my own decision to veil (So...veiling). What shocked me wasn't anything she said, but what had prompted her to write that post: an article claiming that "Head covering is thinly veiled patriarchy." Loath as I am to give this article more press, it made me want to write more about my own choice.

I am 21 years old. I am studying at a respected university. I am single, and pay my own rent and my own bills. I have, by all means, a fairly average life for a 21st-century first-world young woman.

I cover my head for Mass. I am not married, so I do not do it for my husband. I am not a Traditionalist. I do not do it out of conformity. I do not do it out of necessity. I do it because it is my choice. It has literally nothing to do with anyone outside of me and the Lord. 

I lived in the Middle East. I have seen real oppression and real patriarchy. Someone trying to tell me that my free choice to cover my head is oppressive and patriarchal is laughable. Nice try.  I covered my head there and it was oppressive. But that does not make head-covering intrinsically oppressive. 

Head covering is not compulsory. I'm not saying that everyone, or even anyone should cover their head. One of the most beautiful things about the Catholic Church is that it allows us to express our devotion and our spirituality in different ways.

Take the Brown Scapular for example. It is a devotion and a personal choice, and choosing it for oneself in no way says that everyone should do it. Head covering is the same, it is a personal devotion that one can chose to follow or not. That choice is up to you.

But if you are so threatened by someone else's personal choices that you feel the need to attack them, then perhaps you should spend less time looking at others and think about yourself for a minute. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Maybe not such a bad day after all...

So it was only a few hours ago I posted about today being a write-off. Now, with only 20 minutes of the day left, as I was preparing to go to sleep, my fortunes have changed. As I have posted about before, I have a particular devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows (I also discuss it in the page on My Patrons). The first encounter I had with Our Lady of Sorrows was through a holy card that I found in an old book of my fathers. Battered though it was, it was the beginning of a great devotion. I had lost the card over the years and had pretty much lost hope of every finding it again.

As I came back upstairs from brushing my teeth I was thinking about it and when I passed my bookshelf I suddenly decided to take out a particular book from the shelf. There in the pages was my holy card! Now when I say this card is battered, I mean it has been through the wars. Our Lady's face is pretty much obliterated - you can see the line where the top of the card would have stuck out from a book and sustained the most damage. You can just faintly see a sword piercing her Immaculate Heart.

I am so happy to have found this card again! After so long of not finding it, Our Lady found me right when I needed her.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Bad Day

Today was one of those days that just got off to a bad start. I got up at my normal time, which gives me an hour and a quarter to get ready for class. Somehow I managed to be late, only by about 5 minutes but that was by walking really fast. I was supposed to be going home to see my family today but I just couldn't make it, I was too busy to be even remotely prepared.  I'm going tomorrow instead, but I'm still not ready. I think I've been sleeping badly or not getting enough sleep or something because I can remember my dreams and that's always a bad sign for me. I fell asleep for several hours this afternoon, I have no idea how, so I think that's a sign that I need to re-assess my sleep pattern or something. I had flu recently and I'm still not feeling 100%.

I'm rambling. It's just been a muddled day. In my morning confusion I didn't have time to say my morning prayer, which probably didn't help things.

I think today is just one of those days that I'm just going to have to write off and try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Missing the enclosure

I've been looking at St. Cecilia's website and I've found myself missing it again. Realising yesterday how long it will be until I can realistically go back makes me sad. I miss the choir stalls, I miss the grille, I miss the stained glass in the cloister. I miss picking peas and packing hosts and cleaning the tabernacle. I miss the Divine Office, I miss the Latin, I miss the Mass. I know the religious life is not easy, but I fit so easily into it. I remember in one of my journals that Mother Mistress said she had been surprised at how well I had settled there. I felt so comfortable there.

As I write this I'm thinking about how they will be preparing for Vespers right now. The sisters will soon be assembling in the cloister to process in. And now, since I was distracted for a few minutes, Vespers is in full swing. I wish I was there.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Spiritual Strength

I'm not nearly as spiritually strong as I used to be. I know my relationship with the Lord has been broken and at the weekend I made that first and most important step to repairing it - Reconciliation. And I feel so much better for it. Nothing has changed from Saturday to today, but I feel so different. I'm no longer defenceless and alone, because He is with me. And I might not be as close to Him as I used to be but I know that I can be again because He wants me to. I'm working on refreshing my prayer schedule so I hope that will be helpful to me as well. I need to add in something for midday prayer as well, since before I only had morning and evening.

I'm still slightly murky, discernment-wise. It's difficult, because my family and friends are sure to start asking what I'm doing after college. The only decisive thing I have at this point is that I have to go back to St. Cecilia's. Maybe that says more than I'm thinking it does but I just have this unmistakeable sense that I have to go back. I was devastated when I realised I won't be able to go back in January like I had originally hoped. My term dates are just too short and I have my dissertation due too soon after to take three weeks out from that. And after Easter I have exams, so it may be that I can't go back until after my exams. I must admit, I can imagine the abbey would seem even more wonderfully refreshing after all the stress of my last semester!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

God is Good!

I went to Reconcilliation this evening and stayed to go to Mass afterwards since I won't be able to go tomorrow. I hadn't been in a while, even though I meant to last week. When I left the Confessional I felt so clean, so refreshed, so renewed! I knelt before the tabernacle and I was so happy to be reconciled with Him once again. I couldn't stop thanking Him! When I went to Mass I felt so glad to be there, I couldn't wait to receive the Eucharist. At the Consecration, when the priest held Christ up for us all to gaze upon Him I was in tears. I felt so honoured, so blessed to be there and knowing that I could receive after not being able to for two months made me so happy. When I received Him, oh the joy was indescribable! I had almost forgotten how much I love the Eucharist. I realised how much I longed for Him. My heart yearned for Him and to receive Him was (as always) such a great blessing.

Whatever my vocation is, I know that I love Him more than anything and my life will always be dedicated to His glory.

Friday, 12 October 2012


I've been thinking lately and I can't help but think that the timing of everything that's been going on is significant. For all these things to happen so soon after my live-in, I don't think it's coincidence. I don't necessarily know what the message the Lord is trying to send me is, but I truly believe that there is definitely something He is trying to say. I'm going to Confession tomorrow, which I really really need so I am hoping that will bring me some much needed clarity to everything. I don't expect things to suddenly become completely crystal-clear but I know that it will help me hear the Lord's voice a little clearer.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Joke

So I can't remember if I posted this before but it's really funny so I'm posting it anyway. 

A Franciscan and a Jesuit were arguing about which order was the greatest. To settle the matter they decided to ask for a sign from God. A piece of paper floated down that said:
My sons,
Please stop bickering about such trivial matters.
God, O.P. 
 For those who don't know, O.P. stands for Ordo Praedicatorum (Order of Preachers). God is a Dominican! As tempted as I was to change the joke to say O.S.B. but I do like Dominicans so I kept it. I always said if I were to discern active religious life I'd go Dominican. 

On a totally unrelated note, you may notice I've had a redesign. I like to mix things up every now and then anyway and it seems my old font was a bit difficult to read so hopefully the new layout will be better. As always, let me know if there are things you like, don't like, etc. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

New Beginning

So I posted this a few days ago about not really knowing at the moment what my vocation is. In light of that, I've decided perhaps I need a new beginning in all this. Not a wipe-clean kind of new beginning, but a back-to-basics kind of new beginning. I realised I've been trying to skip ahead, and looking too much at the ending and not enough at where I am now and what comes before I get there. I'm trying to refocus on building my relationship with God as I am now. Not as a discerner or as a future religious or whatever, but just as Emily. I need to find that foundation of simply who I am as a person before Him. I can't try and build all those other things without that foundation. And I'm obviously not starting from scratch, but I do need to strip back a lot of what I had started taking for granted. I need to remember that my relationship with Him is not just about my future. It's not just about discerning His will for my life as a whole, but His will for me right now. It's difficult because I am not someone who likes uncertainties. Not knowing my future scares me. I know that trusting in God's plan despite knowing what it might be is something that I know I need to work on.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Miss Conventionality

This afternoon I was having a conversation with an old friend about our plans for after college. She's doing a Masters degree and I'm still in the final year of my undergrad. With my graduation impending, I get this a lot. None of my friends know about my discernment but when she asked me what I wanted to do I told her that I didn't really want a career. She was confused and asked me what I meant. So I told her what I had always wanted for my life: marriage and children. I've told a few people about this before and they've always reacted very positively. I know a few female friends who also feel they would want to be stay-at-home-mothers, at least while their children were young. So this particular friends reaction took me by surprise. I know not everyone wants that kind of a lifestyle and that's perfectly valid. But what annoyed me was that she acted as if the things she wanted for her life were the only things that were valid or worthwhile.

It made me wonder how people are going to react, whether I end up in that married life or in the religious life. Either way, I will have chosen an unconventional and perhaps unpopular path. And that is why I named this post 'Miss Conventionality': because that is something I'm never going to be. And a lot of people are going to react just as my friend did today, and worse. But at the same time I remember something I realised on my live-in: that I can do it. Whatever the judgements that the world may throw at me if I know in my heart that what I am doing is the will of God then I can take it all.

Friday, 5 October 2012


Schedule for tomorrow: Reconciliation. So I decided to share this extract from an article I'm writing: 

Christ told us “I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.” [Luke 5:32] Repentance and redemption are central to our faith as Catholics. We are sinners, from smallest to the greatest among us. But (contrary to popular opinion) our faith does not condemn us: on the contrary it gives us light and hope. The mercy of God is waiting: we need only repent. God has given us the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation: it is not a sacrament of condemnation or judgement but one of love and forgiveness. It is at its very heart a sacrament of great joy because we are cleansed and renewed in God’s grace. 

God does not wish us to be separated from Him, and He has given us this sacrament so that no matter what offence we commit we may always come back into His embrace. Remember the words of Christ: “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need to repentance.” [Luke 15:7] We are those sinners: His apostles, the saints, you and I and all of mankind. We are His precious children and it is His greatest desire that we should find our home in His eternal kingdom. As Catholics we recognise our sins and our weaknesses but we look to God in hope and trust, knowing that He will not forsake us.

Thursday, 4 October 2012


Right now, I honestly couldn't tell you what I feel my vocation is. I'm discerning in a totally different way now. It used to be I had an idea of what the Lord was calling me to and was "testing the water" so to speak. I don't know what it is that's changed, if He's stopped telling me for some reason or if I'm just not listening properly, but I'm having to learn to trust Him in a totally different way. Before I was on a path and trusting that He was leading me. Now I'm wandering through the woods blind and needing to trust that He will lead me to the right path, that He is leading me to the right path.

I've also had to learn a new kind of openness to His will. I feel at this point like the gates have been opened and that He could lead me anywhere. I'm having to learn to accept all those paths as possibilities and be able to say to the Lord, "I'll do whatever Your will asks of me." If He asks any one of those things of me I need to be able to say "Yes, Lord." I'm not sure I'm quite there yet, but it's not something that comes overnight. I'm having to learn to let go of things I never realised I was holding on to. Perhaps the Lord sees my unreadiness and is waiting for me to find the trust and the openness that I need to do His will.

Monday, 1 October 2012


I realised today how much I need God. I am everything that I am only through His mercy and His grace. Sometimes you have to be lost in order to realise that you've had the map in your pocket the whole time. Sometimes we think that we can find the way on our own and we depend on ourselves rather than on the Lord. One of my favourite quotes from Scripture is Obadiah 1:4
"Though you soared like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, I would still fling you down again - it is Yahweh who speaks." 
It's a hauntingly beautiful reminder of the power of the Lord and how small we are in comparison. No matter the heights of human greatness or the grandeur of our achievements, they pale in comparison to the power and majesty of the Lord. However great we may think we are, in reality we are nothing. Our very existence is only because He willed it to be so, we were fashioned by His hands.

It is truly a blessing to be able to say that I am a child of God and that I totally, utterly and completely depend on Him.