As I posted previously, I went into my 5-day retreat on the evening of Saturday 24th January.
The theme for the retreat was the above song, which links very nicely with the three vows of Poverty, Celibacy and Obedience.
During the five days, I had plenty of time to think and pray, and also knit! I also spent some time organising some of my things, as there were papers to be thrown out or destroyed, and things to tidy. Also, when a Novice makes her Profession, she moves cell (bedroom) and once professed, no longer has free access to the Novices’ study room (called the Noviciate). So I wanted to make sure my things were as organised as they could be to help with this moving.
Thursday 29th January was my last full day of retreat, and it was also a day of celebration for OHP, as 100 years previously, the very first Sisters had received the students from St Hilda’s School into Sneaton Castle – a continuing of the school but a founding of the new order. We had a special service at mid-day, followed by a celebration dinner. I ate the dinner but not with the Sisters, as it was a talk meal and I was in a silent retreat! We had also woken up to a light snow-fall that morning.
Thursday afternoon brought with it the rehearsal for the Profession service itself, which was nicely straight-forward, but it also brought the news that some of my friends had telephoned to say that with the weather forecast for snow in Cheshire, they didn’t want to risk travelling to Yorkshire and getting stranded. I was given the instructions to contact the folks I knew who were coming and warn them. A phone call to my parents followed my supper, and all seemed hopeful.
Friday morning I woke up early, having been awake for at least an hour and a half in the night. I was joyfully awake all through corporate quiet time, but perhaps not thinking coherently because at one point I wondered why there wasn’t a cloth on the altar, before remembering that the Profession Service takes place as part of the Eucharist. (Normally on a Friday, we have a said Eucharist straight after Lauds/Morning Prayer.)
Breakfast, then preparing for the guests to arrive. I vacuumed the Noviciate and was then ordered out of the way, which meant that I spent the best part of three hours kicking my heels. Fortunately I had a book to read which helped. Then, at about quarter to ten, both the Prioress and Sub-Prioress appeared outside my cell. One to deliver to me my Profession habit and girdle, which had been on the altar overnight, and the other to deliver the news that my parents weren’t going to be able to make it after all, having set off and travelled all of 40 miles in an hour and a half.
That was a bit upsetting but I’m glad that they took the sensible decision and stayed put. I finished reading the book, and then at about 11, decided to change. Oonce dressed in my new habit and the girdle (rope belt) I was taken to Chapel and to my place for the ceremonies to begin. It was lovely to see so many people who had come for the occasion.
The service itself was pretty straight forward, and the Spiritual Advisor to OHP preached as well as presided and received my vows. He managed to have everyone in giggles, as he described how he’d once had to deal with someone in immigration and explain to them about the vows of Poverty, Celibacy and Obedience. The moral of the story: “ask a nun”. Then it was time for the profession ceremonial itself. Liturgically it’s not long and the person who does the most talking is the priest! I was told afterwards that I was loud and clear so all could hear.
After that, I spent the rest of the service grinning like an idiot, apart from a few brief moments when I was trying to not cry with an odd combination of joy and happiness, and sadness that Mum & Dad weren’t there.
After the Eucharist concluded, there were photographs taken, and many people decended with cameras. I don’t have a decent shot of myself with Fr J and the Prioress, sadly they’re very blurry, but I’m hoping that other folks do and I can then snaffle a copy.
Just professed and grinning like an idiot
Then was the standard buffet celebration lunch, which was very, very, very nice. I just about managed to speak to everyone.
After all the excitement I got out of clearing up by entertaining the last of the guests to depart, and grabbed half an hour to myself to open cards and gifts, before afternoon tea with the Sisters. This is an age-old OHP tradition whereby the celebration cake is cut and shared, and everyone gets a chance to look at the cards and items given to the person whose celebration it is.
So, half for me and half for the Prioress, is that OK with everyone?
Once we’d finished looking at the cards it was time for Vespers (Evening Prayer) and by this point I was yawning my head off. Supper and then Compline, and I was in bed with my light out by half past 8. It’s a rock-and-roll life, this nun business!
“Normality” resumed the following day with the wind band rehearsal and my being on portress duty – and of course, mucking out the donkeys. I’ve nearly moved everything out of my old cell now into the new, there’s just one item to properly move and then some rubbish to throw out, the bed to strip and some cleaning to do. It’s going to take a bit more work to get my things out of the Noviciate.
My new cell is technically a bit smaller than the old one, but it feels much better equipped for storage. It has a nice-sized bookcase, and the chest of drawers has much bigger drawers in it. All of my underthings have gone into one drawer, instead of one and a half. This feels like a big improvement and will hopefully make my life a lot easier to keep tidy (although I would strongly recommend that people don’t try holding their breath on this one).