News from the convent: Dinner, death and donuts

Our lead story:

A protestant took part in a Catholic Eucharist. In other news: Hell did not freeze over.

It happened last Friday, March 1. The convent’s “Founding Day.” The Mass was a special one and many people attended. Sisters from far away attended. Employees of the convent attended.

I, a Presbyterian, attended.

I knew none of the songs, but I faked it well. As for the prayers, there were a few others not doing the sign of the cross either. So yeah. I wasn’t the only protestant on the field. (For the record, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a protestant making the motion, however this one is fairly certain she’d whack herself in the nose if she attempted it.)

Then we segued into the Eucharist and in all honesty, Catholics are masters with the segue. It’s seamless. There was another song and people started walking forward. I was about to sit down because, you know. Not Catholic.

Only I noticed everyone was walking forward. Everyone. Even the non-crossers, whom we presume are fellow protestants.

I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood. I had Catholic friends. I know the drill. Only Catholics. Never me.

But these Franciscans have been described as radical. So maybe?

I whispered to the woman sitting next to me – a frequent visitor to the convent, she runs their volunteer organization in St. Cloud — and I ask, “Do you know if it’s okay if protestants–”

I didn’t get to finish; she was nodding emphatically. “I know for a fact it’s okay,” she said, adding, “The Sisters think it’d be like inviting someone to dinner and then not allowing them to eat.”

Which is a marvelous way to put it, don’t you think?

Speaking of dinner, there was one after the Mass and it was free. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, several salads including a “copper coin” salad. A dish that will forever change my view on cooked carrots. For dessert, apple pie.

In sadder news from the convent:

One of the Sisters passed away.

Deaths are announced quietly here, by way of a little slip of paper on the entrance to the convent.

front door of convent

It was a Sister I’d never met before: Sister Bernarda. She was 102 years old.

She had been a registered nurse and hospital administrator. Other Sisters reported she was always dignified and direct, and took care to present herself well and look her best. They also said she was very patient and kind to young nurses in training, had a charming sense of humor and was loved by all.

One thing I kept hearing from the Sisters: “I’m happy for her.”

They truly have a different view of death.

The day before she died, Sister Bernarda went to the convent’s beauty salon and got a permanent. (Let that sink in. At 102, she got a perm.)

She told the beautician she needed to look nice because she was “going to meet Jesus.”

Sister Bernarda

This is the news, folks. I’m not making this up.

From the lighter side of of the news:

Yesterday was Donut Day. Also known as Shrove Tuesday.

So apparently this is a thing? Honestly, I had no idea. Growing up Lutheran, every day was donut day. But for those whose Lenten tradition meant giving up decadent food, all that fat and sugar had to get used up. Hence, donuts on Shrove Tuesday.

Full disclosure: I’ve never had a donut as good as my Grandma’s. They arrived on your plate literally moments after she pulled them from the fryer, crispy and golden and oh-so-good. Never too sweet and perfect for dunking in tea.

But these, my friends? These came close. Really, really close.

Speaking of Lent, not sure if it’s your custom to give up something – it’s not mine, but I always liked the notion strictly for the challenge of it. Anyway, came across something that might be the most difficult challenge I’ve seen. It comes from Pope Francis.

Lent image

Even if we aren’t 100% successful, I rather think if we all just attempted these, we might change the world.

And that’s our news from the convent. Until next time: Be humble, be kind, and always choose love. 💗

Author: CJ Hartwell

After spending most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona, CJ Hartwell moved to the middle of Minnesota. Is she nuts? Probably. For updates on her sanity, click on the link to follow by email.

33 thoughts on “News from the convent: Dinner, death and donuts”

    1. I very nearly live there — about a half mile away from my front porch. Except for extreme weather, I typically walk to work.
      Hey, I’m a Lutheran turned Presbyterian. Funny how that works out! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love how Sr. Bernarda knew death was coming and greeted it happily. I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I think it’s a really beautiful thing when death comes when it’s supposed to and the person has some sort of notice that it’s coming. My husband’s grandmother definitely knew when her time was coming and said her vague goodbyes (that made sense in hindsight) over the week before she died.

    I’m Catholic but I don’t do Lent very well – too busy / stressed with work, usually. Plus my husband is agnostic so there’s a limit to how much I can rally the kids all by myself. And this year is no different!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m in full agreement with you — I think it’s a beautiful thing when people are prepared and have a sense of what’s coming. Before my mom passed away, she told her caregiver that she was “going home to have dinner with Dave.” Dave being my dad, who passed away two years earlier. She died that night in her sleep. The weird thing was, she really hadn’t been talking for about a month leading up to that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So many good things in this post. Loved the part about Catholics and Protestants. When my husband and I were married by a Presbyterian minister assisted by a Catholic priest, the usual Scripture, I Corintihians 13, was prefaced by portions of Chapter 12 – about the Body of Christ and its members, who are different, but all part of the same Body. (A man who had left our church because of some disagreements with the minister returned after our wedding.)
    Great quote about fasting, too. May I share it on Facebook?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s right up there with some of the best wedding stories I’ve heard. What a beautiful ceremony that must have been!
      Oh, and absolutely, feel free to share his words on Facebook! The more people who see it, the better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I liked the hair perm story.
    I got my hair cut last week and told the hairstylist I needed to look nice for my trip home – where it was so cold that I had to wear a hat all the time and when I took the hat off, I might as well have not got my hair done…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this! Catholics and Protestants can agree that Christ is the way to salvation. Some of the differences are matters of tradition, and no reason to cause enmity. I’m so glad the sister was able to meet her Lord with beautifully permed hair!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I hope I’m as at peace with my time being up as Sister Bernarda and your Mom. What beautiful stories. Neither of us is religious, which means we do the pancakes but we don’t do the Lent part. I hope that doesn’t make us bad people. Ooh, maybe we can say we’re giving up pancakes, because we’re unlikely to have them again till next Shrove Tuesday! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The beautiful thing about these Franciscans (and in truth, the Presbyterians I know and love) is that they are the least judgmental people I know. Whether you give something up or not, you’re okay in our book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your superfluity of Sisters seem like a very friendly and hospitable bunch. I am pleased that you have infiltrated their ranks and look forward to more of your top secret reports from the convent.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As a kid, we gave up candy for lent because on Easter day you had more than candy to eat. So I was born a Catholic and have been trying to escape ever since but I do like Pope Francis… wonderfull story!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love reading stories about the convent. Imagine if we all had that attitude about death: “I’m happy for her”. It makes complete sense to think of it this way. And I went to college at SCSU, by the way (you might have already known that). The pics of the donuts totally had my mouth watering too!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I don’t remember you telling me that before, though you might have and I just forgot!
    This volunteer group is in a place called the “Welcoming House” in St. Cloud. It’s a house that was originally built for the 16 nuns who taught at the Catholic school that was across the street, and I must say it’s the most utilitarian home I’ve ever been in. Sometime I’ll have to write a post about it!

    Like

  10. Well, I had a number of snarky comments brewing as I smiled my way through this post, but then I reached the lovely thoughts at the end (from both Pope Francis and yours truly) and, yeah, we’ll just set the snarky aside and instead bask in the warmth of the words…

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s