Early Lent? ….by Sr. Raphaela

We seemed to have begun the season of Lent early this year. Sisters moving from one bedroom to another or moving into different office spaces as they transition into new jobs and responsibilities. In most cases each of these sisters had occupied their office or bedroom space for over 20 years. Thus, it is the depth of this simplifying and the need for renewing of such spaces that I feel we have exceeded the usual sense of Ordinary time that occurs before Lent.

As a scholar and a researcher, I value questions that lead to more and better questions. I have been wondering, would this premature entry into a Lenten-like time of purging what is no longer necessary or needed be more likely considered supra-Ordinary time (above or beyond Ordinary time) or sub-Ordinary time (under or less than Ordinary time). Do we ascend or descend from Ordinary time into Lenten time? Is it possible to reside in both supra and sub-Ordinary time simultaneously? Is it possible to have contemplative space while the roof is being replaced over a span of two months due to spurts of Pacific Northwest liquid (and occasionally crystallized) sunshine?

Sisters Angela, Julian and Raphaela with a real roofer

For me, as house manager, the Lenten quality of simplifying and removing the fat and leaven, which could and perhaps should lead to a quieting and contemplative experience, actually activates a continuous expenditure of energy. A prioritized list of projects is generated since one project necessarily follows the completion of another in the systematic relocated of an entire mountain range. Or so it seems to me. And then I begin to implement my systematic well laid plan.

As a monastic and building maintenance person I have come to enjoy my vocation of entertaining God with my planning and preparations. However, please note that in this supra/sub-Ordinary time Lenten season of 2024, I made God belly laugh so loud and roll on heaven’s floor in residual giggle fits that it knocked our power out for 3 hours. (Full disclosure: our power did go out for three hours but most of the mountain range had been relocated by then.)

It was truly amazing what we found in these rooms. Our clean-up was so extensive we ended up bringing in extra dumpsters for both recycling and garbage. We unearthed a monster of a half-ton steel desk living in the sub-prioress’ office. The resistance that it exerted, as we tried to relocate it to museum habitat where it would be appreciated and well cared for, was impressive. It took three of us but we got it moved to a bedroom.

Desk complete with spring-loaded typewriter shelf

After moving it to its new home, we discovered what it had been protecting in its old home: a water damaged window casing. It also became apparent that the lifespan of carpet does not last beyond 25 years for a well-lived-in 5-foot square work space of a highly efficient and truly dedicated sub-prioress. After days of moving out furniture, cleaning out drawers and crannies, vacuuming, scrapping, patching, sanding, vacuuming, taping, painting, ripping out old carpet, laying down new carpet, gluing down new carpet, vacuuming, and moving in furniture for the newly installed sub-prioress… The roof was finally finished!

Our new Subprioress, Sister Anna-Camille Wooden, at her new office door


Now that I think about it--I don’t think this was just any Ordinary time.




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