|autumn light in l.a.: to die for..|
I promised Sr. Jeanne when I ran "her" piece that I'd put in a link to her Franciscan Appalachian Hermitage. If you're ever in Spencer, West Virginia, and want a rustic cabin, solitude, and a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament, this is the place for you. I've stayed there twice myself, once for a few days, once for a month. And look how holy I turned out! Just ask the many people who are mad at me right now.
Sr. Jeanne also has a killer memoir--Voice for the Hollers: A Journey Into Solitude and Solidarity in Appalachia--that I urge you to check out.
Oh--and long live Thérèse.
October 1: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Tuesday, October 1
For thirty-seven years, Jeanne McNulty has lived in a holler in Spencer, West Virginia: praying, embracing a simple lifestyle, gardening, gathering firewood and reaching out to some folks in her rural county by nursing the sick in their homes.
There are modest hermitages in the woods there where folks, for a small donation, have come to spend time in deep solitude, take long walks, or sit quietly in the straw bale chapel which houses the Blessed Sacrament.
Jeanne is a member of the Order of Consecrated Virgins (Canon 604)* and she also belongs to the Third Order of St. Francis.
The first time I visited the hermitage, I immediately knew she was a normal human being with a deep and authentic inner life. First, she came out from her cheery red-painted house to give me a hug. Next, she invited me in, sat me down, and made me a grilled cheese sandwich with home-made pickles. And the minute she found out I was a writer: being a fledgling at the art, she exclaimed, "Really! How do you get an agent?"
At the time I was contemplating writing a book about St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the virginal French nun who had entered the cloister at the age of fifteen, discovered that "My Vocation is Love!" and died in agony from TB at the age of twenty-four. Our culture, would say of such a life, What a waste! How neurotic! In The Story of a Soul, Thérèse's autobiography, I saw something deeper: a freedom, a fierceness. "The Little Flower" was not less passionate than any other beautiful girl her age, but infinitely more.
One night Jeanne invited me to dinner.
"Have you always wanted to be alone?" I kicked off the conversation.
She replied: I have always felt the call to celibacy and drawn to spend many hours in solitude. Even as a very young girl I sat in the church by the hour, looking and listening, and one day I "heard" - "I want you."
She said, "When I chose a life of solitude in the holler, I didn't feel the prison gates were clanging shut behind me. I felt as if the gates of heaven were opening." The mountains provided the cloistered solitude her heart longed for. She still had her struggles, including occasional loneliness, but hunger for a man wasn't one of them.
"I like men, she said. "I have many relationships with men, lots of priest friends. It's easy for me to open up to them. But" - a girlish smile spread over her face - "It's Him I want. Christ is my all. It sounds strange, I know, especially coming from one such as I. But the fact is that one man wouldn't be enough for me. . . "
That's a modern-day Thérèse of Lisieux. That's a woman in the fullest, most fecund flower of self-giving love.
|a shower of roses|