|Photo courtesy of Nat Merry|
"Only in trances," said Julian, scornfully.
"We don't put much faith in ecstasies here," Dame Ursula had told them. "The nun you see rapt away in church isn't likely to be the holiest. The holiest one is probably the one you would never notice, because she is simply doing her duty."
"Wouldn't the best penance," asked Abbess more gently, "be in doing what you are asked? What you can do?"
"A young nun has to realize what it is she has renounced; love, human love and marriage, must be shown to her as tender and desirable, as is the gift of children. She must learn there are not compensations."
Dame Clare's eyes flashed as she thought of "all the twaddle people talk...The lack of these things will gnaw at her all her life, leave holes in her, yet she must be just as warm, as self-denying and hard working as any wife or mother, and just as loving, without anyone to hold on to. Somehow most of us do it. Lady Abbess used to say, there may be lazy Benedictines and comfortable Poor Clares, but she had never met them."
"Give us a really good meal, something filling."
"Roast lamb and pancakes," said Abbess without thinking.
Dame Agnes sanctioned Irish stew and hasty pudding, and got her first reprimand ... "It's not your business to penance the community! Mortification should never begin in the kitchen."
"I am a woman...Look at me."
"I can't see past all those trappings."
"That's the trouble," [she] said sadly. "So few people can--but please try."
"They were only pinpricks."
"Martyrdom by pinpricks can be very painful."