The Convent

I am dashing off a quick note before I go find a market. Everything closes at 7 p.m., and I need to buy fruit for a dinner party for students and faculty. The host is a 70-plus-year old Italian priest who travels the world with a backpack that contains a pair of long pants, running shoes, a windbreaker and a priest’s collar. He is reading “Les Miserables,” and he tears off each page when he finishes it “to make it lighter.” He flew to Rome after doing a Baptism in Mexico.

Today in the piazza I ask Father Bruno, the priest, about the nuns cloistered here in an 800-year-old convent. He says, “Come with me. I want to show you what we do to our women.” As we walk, he comments that many Christians criticize Muslims for making women wear burkas (sp?).

We get to the convent and walk inside. There are six dark windows along the stone entryway. Each window is covered with iron lattice work. He points to the iconic images of St. Dominic and explains them to me. After a few minutes, a thick wooden door opens behind one of the lower windows covered by latticework, and a nun greets us. She and Bruno begin conversing, and I ask a few questions. She laughs, and her mouth opens to reveal few teeth. She tells me the nuns can leave the convent for two hours a day. When she arrived, about 40 nuns lived there. These days, the number has dwindled to 9, and they range in age from 39 to 80.

After we talk for a bit, she closes the door, and we walk into the convent’s small church. The walls of the church are filled with iconic images, including several Renaissance-era paintings. Bruno explains that the images depict “the shedding of worldy things” such as sin, money and vanity. Alongside the paintings are more windows covered by latticework, but it is ornate, not heavy and iron. The nuns stay behind the latticework during mass. They are not allowed to mingle with the parishioners.

So, I will tell more of my tale later. I must get to the market. I miss and love you all.
Mom (alias Kris)

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