Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Blouse

Inside the convent walls, Maggie Anne struggled to fight back the tears. They were silly tears, she told herself - the tears of a foolish little girl. In her hands she held a ruined blouse, the delicate fabric burned through in one place by the clumsy application of an iron.

Mother Mary Joan tried to console her. "Now here," she said, "this is nothing to cry over." She knew, of course, that the girl was not really crying about a ruined shirt. A year earlier Maggie Anne had given away everything to enter religious life. She had been so certain. Now she was afraid - more afraid, probably, than she had been upon entering the convent. For now, Maggie Anne was going back into the world, back to walk the earth, back (though she did not yet know it) to be a mother to two priests and a sister, and a grandmother to many more. She did not know any of this; she only knew that she did not belong in the convent, and that the one piece of clothing she had to wear out into the world was now ruined.

The Mother Superior placed a hand upon her shoulder. "Wait here," she said.

Maggie Anne turned her eyes to the crucifix that hung upon the wall; she felt a brief sting of reproach, and then a calm. The year had been a painful one. She loved the sisters and the life she led, but she was not happy. Through much agony and prayer, and with the gentle guidance of her spiritual director and Mother Mary Joan, she had come to realize that the convent was not her calling. She loved the sisters dearly, and was loath to leave, yet here she was, with a plain brown skirt and a ruined blouse, wondering where to go.

She felt like a child, frightened of the world beyond the walls. She knew not where she would go, or what she would do. If she was to be married,  she knew not how it would come about.

"Oh, what am I getting myself into," she whispered. "Oh God, what are you doing to me?"

She looked at the crucifix - again that calm, and a voice in her heart. "Beckoning you."

Silently, she prayed, "If you will embrace me, I will not fear. If you will carry me, I will walk."

She looked down at her ruined blouse. "The last thing I owned in the world, and I have ruined it... I have nothing left." As she said that, she began to understand. She felt foolish; she ought to have known, ought to have understood why He let her forget what she was doing, why He let her hand linger too long in one place. The tears of frustration that she had been fighting began to trail slowly down her face, turning to peace as they dripped onto the pile of linen clutched in her hands.

Soon, Mother Mary Joan returned. With her was another of the sisters, carrying a large pink sweatshirt with a picture of Winnie the Pooh. Each of the sisters was allowed one outfit for bed. Sister Mary Monica had kept this.

The shy one, the quietest of all the sisters, and not so old herself, handed the sweatshirt to Maggie Anne. "I will sleep in my habit," she said simply.

Peace became gratitude and continued to spill from the eyes of the one time postulant. She embraced the sister.

"It is not much," she protested.

Maggie Anne placed her hands on the sister's shoulders and smiled. "No," she said, "it is everything."


  1. This is a very beautifully written story. I know the "true -tale" and I like your version just as much!

  2. +JMJ+

    This is lovely . . . even if I don't know the "true tale." ;)

    "I will sleep in my habit." Sister Mary Monica has obviously found her vocation, and that gives us hope--along with the narrator's blatant assurance, of course (!)--that Maggie Anne will find hers, too.

  3. Jusice,

    Thank you; you are too kind. I remember hearing the story, but could not remember where.


    Thank you, also. I'm glad you liked it. I'd like to rewrite it a bit longer someday, but for now I'm fond of this little snapshot of life.