By BRIDGET MARY WATERS
WHY I ENTERED THE CONVENT, edited by George L Kane (Browne and Nolan, 155.).
THE SPRINGS OF SILENCE, by Madeline be Frees (The World's Work; The Windmill Press, 12s. 6d.).
SHEPHERD'S TARTAN, by Sister Ward, 9s. 6d.).
"A PLACE where you can never r-1laugh," is the popular definition of a convent, and many Catholics seem to hold the same opinion.
Three newly published books by American Sisters, all members of active communities, leave readers in no doubt that Sisters often laugh. They laugh because they arc happy, because they are free to serve God, because they are in love. Loving Christ with all their hearts, happy as children specially loved and protected by their mother, they love, too, God's children whom He has called them to serve.
The Sisters, all members of cornmunities engaged in teaching. nursing or social work, whose brief stories are collected in Why I Entered the Convent believe that many girls to whom God has given the grace of a vocation to religion fail to recognise His call because their minds are filled with misconceptions about the life and so they believe they are "not the type."
Certainly none of these Sisters thought they were the type before they entered. They all lived normal lives, worked and played hard, enjoyed social life and "dates" with boys.
One was very much in love when God made it clear to her that He wanted her heart for Himself alone. One had been a lawyer and held a pilot's licence, and though many entered straight from college, some gave up interesting and well-paid work to follow their vocation.
In every case the happiness they found was worth any sacrifice they made.
Cotton Pitockings ifADELINE DE FREES, author of Springs of Silence, entered a teaching congregation at the age of 16. She gives a light-hearted account of her life from the time when she went shopping for black cotton stockings, flat-heeled shoes and a black cotton umbrella, to the day, 17 years later, when she was present at the funeral of a young sister.
We hear of the difficulties of the postulant, who must be moulded into a new person, the joy of the clothing ceremony when Madeline De Frees became Sister Mary Gilbert, and the much deeper joys of profession and final vows.
We read of a period of desolation and aridity, when love became a matter of the will alone. Strengthened through trial, Sister Mary Gilbert emerged with increased humility and compassion.
Written with humour and gaiety, Springs of Silence is an excellent addition to the literature of the spiritual life.
Meaning of wows THE meaning and value of the
vows, the need for silence, the practice of prayer are all explained lucidly by a Sister whose work is teaching.
Shepherd's Tartan, by Sister Mary Jean Dory, O.P., is in some respects the best-written of this trio of books. The author is well known as an artist and knows much of the artistry of words.
She, too, has humour and she is not afraid to laugh at the head-dresses worn by some Sisters, even though, in her opinion, the oddest compare favourably with the hats worn by women in the world.
Sister Mary Jean Dory has many helpful things to say about the difficulties and the joys of the religious life and the need for Sisters to do God's active work in the world.
Sometimes she may seem to make too light of the difficulties of the modern girl who must be clothed in long skirts and swathed in black serge and who thinks that many of the customs and ways of thought of the Sisters are as antiquated as their dress.
THESE hooks show clearly that the whole being is given to God in religion and so the most trivial action performed under obedience becbmes a valid part of that offering.
Freed from much that hinders spiritual growth, the Sister is at liberty to develop her personality till it becomes that which God meant it to be. Freed from material cares and preoccupations. she is at liberty to intercede for her fellow-men. Released from earthly love by the vow of chastity, the Sister is free to exercise the spiritual maternity which the world needs so much.
The modem girl so often believes that she can serve God as well or better as a laywoman than as a Sister. We cannot read these books without realising that for those whom God calls to religion there can he no other way of serving Him.
Religious vows and the religious rule alone provide women with the opportunity for complete surrender