Visiting Marbury

As many of you know, my twin sister entered the cloistered Dominican Monastery of St. Jude down in Marbury, AL about 14 months ago (November 2011).  The last time we visited was in November, when, after a year in the postulancy, Nicole got the name Sr. Mary Thomas of the Holy Name of Jesus.  Anyway, people aren't allowed to visit during Advent or Lent (as well as whenever the sisters are on a retreat), so this weekend was the last opportunity for us to visit before Lent gets going.
Thus, after classes on Friday (about noon), the rest of them picked me up in front of Brute and we started driving, and driving, and driving.  We did stop to pick up some dinner, the massively delicious (I'm being sarcastic...) fish sandwiches from Dairy Queen with fries.  Needless to say, I still haven't found even a good fish sandwich from a fast food restaurant (maybe Culver's?).    Even with that culinary catastrophe we made it to Marbury by about 8:30 or so PM (we gained an hour going there, so it was 8.5 hours on the clock and 9.5 in the car.)  We met with Sr. Mary Thomas briefly that night and got the keys to the guest house (which was the temporary convent before they built the current one 50 years ago or so).  It's pretty simple arrangements, but perfectly usable. 

Cherry-Chocolate Pie
On Saturday, we attended Mass with the sisters at 7:30 AM and then had a short break before heading over to the parlor and talking with Sr. Mary Thomas for an hour or so.  It is kind of weird to have the, in one sense, artificial, separation between us (the grate), but I understand the reasoning behind it.  After a while you get used to it, but the moving your head back and forth to "dodge" the grille does get old.  We pretty much just talked about life, what I'm doing, (including some pretty funny stories from seminary) and what she is up to in the convent.  (as a novice, she doesn't have any assigned responsibilities, but does get to help around.) 

After that time was up we joined the nuns (again in the chapel) for mid-day prayer (sext), the rosary, and maybe a few other prayers.  Funny side note:  The sisters when saying the rosary pause after "pray for us sinners now" and finally say "and at the hour of our death".  It takes me the entire rosary to get it down and then for the week afterwords I find myself pausing there.  As always, the nuns are in no hurry and these prayers seem (to me) to be excruciatingly long.  The rosary, I'm almost positive, gets slower and slower as it goes.  If they tried to say all 20 decades in a row, they would never finish because the last decade would take forever.  (OK, enough of the jokes...)

During the run - notice the hill & dog...
The we were served lunch in the small kitchen/dining room in the convent (the nuns pass food through the turn).  Well, the room was small, but the meals that we were served are massive.  Lunch: a pile of noodles and beef strogonoff stuff, a platter of green beans, a large bowl of apple salad, a loaf of bread + butter, and an entire chocolate cherry pie.  Anyway, we managed to make it through the meal (which was, if you didn't already assume, delicious).
That afternoon, we had some more time (a few hours) with Sr. Mary Thomas and then a break of an hour or two.  Since it was gorgeous outside (60 degrees and sunny), dad and I went for a short run.  The massive, stupidly huge hills killed me, and we only went 2-3 miles at a pretty slow pace, but since I haven't been doing much exercise lately it was better than nothing (and as I said, it was beautiful).  Actually, after I got back we did one lap at top speed around the circular drive in front of the convent.  It actually is a pretty significant hill, and is pretty killer to try and sprint around.  Nevertheless, because we're real men and want to show off, so we have done this a few times in the past and always time ourselves to set new records.  Well, to cut out all my rambling, I managed to set a new record of 45.48 seconds (almost 15mph) even after the run beforehand.  I could be wrong, but I don't think I'll beat that significantly for a while... 

One of our goofy poems...
After lunch and then the run, I felt like everything inside me had been smashed into a bowling ball, but that wore off as we talked (once again) to Sr. Mary Thomas from about 4-5.  At 5:30 or so, they did evening prayer (which I video taped, but didn't manage to get permission from Mother Superior to YouTube-ify - you'll be the first to know, if I do get permission), and afterwards we had dinner.  As always, the meal was yummy but massive (this time it was tomato soup, chicken salad + buns, tomatoes, carrots, and dozens (literally) of Christmas cookies).  Something I forgot to mention about the meals is that we have started sending a thank you note back through once we're done - and we put it in a poem.  So, hoping that you don't think it to silly; here's an example of our beautiful poetry. 

yep, the driveway is hilly too
After dinner, we had probably half an hour talking with all the nuns and then we hit the sack back down in the guest house.  (Out there you can see tons of stars, it's pretty awesome.)  We packed up the next morning, joined the nuns for Mass at 8:00, and then said our good-by's.  We hit the road around 9:30 or so and did the whole drive, and drive, and drive thing again.  I tried to drive a good amount because I didn't have the extra 5 hours that the rest of the family had going from Quincy to Indy and then back.  We hit a pretty good rain storm, predictably when I was driving, that lasted a few hours, but managed to survive the ordeal.  Not too much else is notable about the trip, it was a lot of fun, it was a lot of food, it was a lot of driving, and it was wonderful to see Nicole (sorry, Sr. Mary Thomas) again.  Keep her and all the other nuns in your prayers - they do it for us...

Good Night Folks!