Sister Hanna Maria:
It’s a daily being confronted by the truth of God, which is not apart from me. It’s not different from me, not apart from me, but it is to go into my heart and to meet God in my heart. And also by repeating the Psalms day out and day in. They are so rich. There is no mood where you can’t find yourself in the prayers of the Psalms. So whatever mood I’m in, you go to the office and the day is… The office, the liturgy for us, it’s like the spine. It’s like the skeleton of a body. It’s what keeps the day for us. And it is what keeps us up.


There are deep burgundy bags of potpourri, fragrance diffusers, and cleansing sprays–a different scent and mood for each season of the year. You can buy Iris Toothpaste (20 bucks a tube), Crema de Barba (shaving cream) at 71 dollars a pop, and Sapone allo Zolfo—sulphur soap—with which to scrub off after, say, an exorcism.


The mailperson, almost inevitably a man in my experience, is right up there in my mind with the local librarian and the priest as a consoler, a bringer of sustenance, a conduit between my cloistered little world and the world at large. I have come close to tears in my occasional outbursts of gratitude and wonder that the guy reallly does show up, mostly, rain, shine and here in Tucson, almost dangerous heat.


“A particularly severe form of asceticism within Christianity is that of anchorites, who typically allowed themselves to be immured, and subsisting on minimal food. For example, in the 4th century AD, one nun named Alexandra immured herself in a tomb for ten years with a tiny aperture enabling her to receive meager provisions. Saint Jerome (c. 340–420) spoke of one follower who spent his entire life in a cistern, consuming no more than five figs a day.”


Crunch time means devoting an inordinate amount of mental space and physical exertion to “stuff” for a while. One function of the Incarnation, I’ve been thinking, is that we are constantly constantly carrying stuff from one place to another. Take a look around next time you’re out. Guys with plastic bags dangling from their handlebars, kids with backpacks, mothers with strollers, pickup trucks laded with rakes, shovels, trash barrels, all of us hauling bags of groceries into the kitchen after a Trader Joe’s run.