The Southern Cross : March 2011
March 2011 Page 13 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross feature | found there was "nothing to kick against" and six months after visiting Caldey Island, she was baptised and received into the Catholic Church at the age of 38. She thought her life was complete now that she had her faith and she no longer felt like she was searching for something more. But on a Pentecost retreat at a Carmelite friary near Oxford, while praying in her room after the introductory session, an image came into her mind which caught her by surprise. "It was as if I was looking down upon a group of nuns dressed in black...this gave me a real shock because when I had prayed before it had never been like this," she says. "It didn't lead on to anything immediately but I was very devoted to following where God was leading me, I wanted to be led by God." Inspired by her rich experience leading up to her conversion, she says she was open to this sort of "profound" occurrence, despite having never been interested in religious life. "It had never really appealed to me. If anything the sacrament of marriage was what I thought would complete everything for me, even though there was no- one on the horizon," she says. "So this surprised me and I didn't really want to face it, but I felt that this was what God was saying." She spoke to the priest at the retreat and he suggested that having just become a Catholic, she shouldn't worry too much about the image. But she had a "deep feeling" when she was praying that God was asking something of her and that was to enter religious life. "Over the next couple of years it remained with me, sometimes I felt it stronger than at other times. About two years later, she went on a retreat for women interested in religious life at a Benedictine monastery, which she had seen advertised in a Catholic newspaper. "I just knew it was the right thing, everything about it felt right," she says. "It was wonderful but frightening; I began to see that I had to give up everything else, my way of life, all the things that I liked doing...I was already mourning the loss of who I knew myself to be." After another visit to the monastery she felt that the rhythm of this religious life was right for her, but she wasn't so sure about that particular monastery. She also couldn't understand how she was going to cope with a life that was "contradictory" to her life as an independent working woman but at the same time she knew that somehow it would work out. Some of her friends and family were not so sure. While some were intrigued and pleased that she was following her spiritual path, others resented the fact that they wouldn't have the same access to her. Some of her Catholic friends couldn't understand why she wanted to consider a contemplative order because of her exuberant nature. They saw her as outgoing, competent and someone who enjoyed life and liked expressing herself through things like clothes, cooking, sharing meals and a glass of wine with friends. "But I knew there was more to life than that," she says. "I'd rather have what is on offer from God if it's going to give me a sense of fullness, a life of inner peace and a sense of purpose." After speaking further to her Spiritual Director, who was also the Vicar for Religious, she decided to look into the Benedictine monastery at Minster, in Kent. She went there and stayed for a few days in the guest house, and says she "just loved it and felt like this could be my home". "The next time I visited I stayed in the enclosure and was in the choir in Chapel, and ate and worked alongside the sisters. Then I spent a month living in the community experiencing what monastic life was like, and this confirmed that this was the right place." Next month: A day in the life of a Benedictine nun. y where they share a life of prayer, lectio divina, work, community life and hospitality, and below Sr Mary Magdalene with her mother Betty Tulk.