Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
NewsOpinionReaders Respond

Mystery of the monastic life

As an altar boy who helped serve Carmelite nuns communion in the early 1940s, I read with interest The Sun's recent article about the present-day Carmelite Monastery ("All work and all prayer at Baltimore Carmel," July 14).

As I remember, their home was around Oliver and Caroline streets near Biddle. The chapel was built into a nondescript building adjacent to a hospital.

I would arrive around 6 a.m. The door was unlocked so I merely rang the bell to show I was there and walked in. Most times there were two of us. No one greeted us. Our "vestments" were laid out. When a priest appeared, we moved into the chapel.

A dark curtain separated us from the congregation, which consisted only of nuns who had entered the sanctuary from the rear. There were always just two of us and a priest.

When it came time for communion, the nuns moved to the rail.

I held a golden plate by its handle. The nun would raise her veil to just under her nose and open her mouth. I would situate the plate under her chin, presumably to capture any flake from the Eucharist, and the priest would place the wafer on her tongue.

At no time was I to make contact. Even eye contact was to be avoided — which was easy because the black curtain made any contact nearly impossible.

Throughout the half-hour service not a word was spoken beyond prayers, which were in Latin. Neither of us knew what we were saying, we just uttered the rote Latin we were told. There was no reading of the Bible nor any "message" from the priest. Just the Celebration of the Mass.

Even at the age of 12, I wondered what would cause any person to subject themselves to the life those ladies had chosen. We were told that they never left the convent.

To the question of why I subjected myself to having to get up at such an ungodly our to walk the mile or so to church and back before breakfast: the priest tipped each of us a dollar for the week.

The high calling to "share contemplation with the people" was not a consideration. Simply put, the nuns worked at the hospital to which the church was attached.

To this day I still wonder why anyone would choose such a life. But we should thank God that there still are such people among us.

Lee Rudolph

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Balto. Co. wrong on animal shelter photos
    Balto. Co. wrong on animal shelter photos

    The response by Don Mohler, chief of staff for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, to the ACLU's lawsuit concerning photography at the Baltimore County animal shelter is disingenuous at best ("ACLU says Balto. Co. has squelched criticism of animal shelter," Oct. 19).

  • Low hiring standards lead to police brutality
    Low hiring standards lead to police brutality

    I've lived in and around Baltimore for all of my 73 years. My opinion on the problems with our police and fire departments lies with recruiting practices ("U.S. Dept. of Justice reveals plans to review Baltimore Police Dept.," Oct. 21). As a young man I never heard of the...

  • Hogan should learn from Connie Morella
    Hogan should learn from Connie Morella

    Tom Schaller's Oct. 20 column, "The Connie Morella effect," was most interesting. I knew Connie Morella well. She was an English professor at Montgomery College when I was teaching Political Science there. We continued our friendship over the years when she was in Congress and...

  • Moms want answers from Hogan on guns
    Moms want answers from Hogan on guns

    Despite gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan's public flip-flopping on guns and the Maryland Firearms Safety Act — he must have some of a stance on guns. He completed a questionnaire for National Rifle Association that earned him an "A-" rating from the Washington gun...

  • When it comes to political endorsements, voter beware
    When it comes to political endorsements, voter beware

    Some candidates rattle off their endorsements in lieu of their record or priorities. But just what/who do endorsements represent?

  • Who's in charge of the church, the Pope or the bishops?
    Who's in charge of the church, the Pope or the bishops?

    As Roman Catholics, we were taught that God spoke through the Pope. That's why the Pope is considered infallible. At the Bishop's Conference held last week there seems to have been a chink in that armor. Pope Francis spoke of acceptance of gays and divorced couples in the Church. When...

Comments
Loading