I remember when I was in my early 20s I lived for a period of two weeks in a convent on the outskirts of Paris. I did this to improve my french speaking skills and not because I was considering religious life. Despite the mission of my stay not being a spiritual one I found this time peaceful and spiritually transformative. There was one particular conversation I had with the youngest sister there that changed the way I viewed the resurrection.
The days were simple and the surroundings picturesque. I had a whole wing to myself in a large monastary. Only about 15 sisters lived in the whole complex which was about the same size as Downtown Abbey. I did find it a little spooky at night by myself. There were little nooks and crannies in this castle like building, small staircases and doors leading to unknown places. Sometimes my fears and imaginings of what lurked in the darkness would prevent me from falling asleep.
I spent my days sleeping a lot (often until noon), going for walks in the gardens of the property or to the local village, picking berries, conversing with the cook while she prepared meals and their sisters and visitors while we enjoyed them. I also attended prayers with the sisters when I woke in time.
The sisters also took it upon themselves to find ways that I could interact with the local community. With their help one day I visited a family who recently had returned from a mission trip to Africa and owned a building company that employed ex-prisoners on their staff. I also visited the local school and spent time with a girls scout group that was camping on the property grounds.
I do remember at the time that I found the pace of life a little too slow for my liking. I was forced to slow down. I did not have a constant and consistent connection to the internet and had time to hear my own thoughts. What I would give now for two weeks like that now that I have two small children of my own!
I was at the precipice of my new life as a fully fledged adult. I’d completed my degrees, been for a year abroad and was soon to return to my home country to start my career. I did not know what this new life would look like and I was reluctant to return home. I had had some a wonderful time away and feared my life would not stay the way it had become and would simply return to what it once had been.
One of the sisters, Soeur Laure, was much younger than the others. She was about 30. She befriended me and I remember one day we went for a walk in the gardens together. I remember waiting for her while she finished doing some chores she had to complete for the older sisters – some laundry and ironing of the order’s uniforms.
As we walked through the grounds which were filled with thriving native flowers that had been carefully and skillfully maintained by the groundsman I told her about my experiences in the past year and where I was with my faith. In that past year I’d had some incredible experiences and was filled with a love for God, felt held in a tangible way by Him and was enthusiastic and optimistic about what this meant for my life and the world. Despite being so filled I expressed to Soeur Laure that I still had trouble believing in the physical resurrection of Jesus.
Soeur Laure challenged me to think about the resurrection in a different way…
“Why do you find it so difficult.” she asked
“There are resurrections around us everywhere, every day. Look at those flowers over there. Soon they will die but they will return to the soil and new plants and flowers will return next season”.
This simple explanation of Soeur Laure’s stuck. I often remember her words and when I experience things in every day life that appear to be mini resurrections. I hope to share some of these I’ve come across in my life with you and perhaps you would also like to share some of the ones you’ve come across with me.