Meet a Sister
Sister Harriet’s Story
I was fortunate to grow up in a home where both my parents were deeply faithful. My brothers and I were surrounded by love, and for us, religion was natural and normal. During high school, my inner focus was entirely directed at school work, friends, sports, preparing for college, and being a Christian was more of an “outer” thing, one thing I did among others. It wasn’t until my early years in college that my own faith started to take root in my own character and decisions.
During my freshman year, I had to read the Rule of St. Benedict for a class. We read many things that semester, but that is the only one I remember. It resonated with me. I appreciated the order and balance of activities, but most of all I was struck by the idea of praying the psalms throughout the day. It was somehow tied up with my “being” – I knew my life would involve praying the psalms like Benedict suggests.
My sophomore year of college, I started to grow in a deeper sense of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I grew up Protestant, and was struggling with the idea of converting to Catholicism and injuring so many of my existing relationships. In the midst of all this, I wanted to find a place to go on retreat, somewhere where I could join in a community praying the whole liturgy of the hours. Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey was the only community I could find near me that prayed all 7 hours, and so I signed up for a retreat.
The first full day I was there was a Sunday, and on Sundays at Mississippi Abbey there is a half-hour of Eucharistic adoration before vespers, and during that time I had the closest thing to a direct answer from Jesus that I have ever had. I was pouring out my dilemma and was trying to convince Him that I could believe Catholic things and stay as I was. I heard no words, but He communicated pretty clearly that believing in the Eucharist is not the point; but rather receiving the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. And that required becoming Catholic. It was like a switch had flipped and I knew that even though it would be hard, I would enter the Catholic Church.
With that crisis cleared up, I spent the rest of the week singing loudly in the guest chapel at every office, helping the young sisters with work, meeting with the vocation director (the guest mistress had asked if I wanted to “talk to a sister”), and even celebrating a jubilee with the community. I was certain that I could pray the psalms as a layperson, and that my relationship with Jesus was not dependent on externals such as job, place of living, or “vocation.” However, during that week I had felt a similar inner resonance to when I first read the Rule of St. Benedict, and, so far as it was up to me, I knew I had found my home.
The following three years I spent continuing to move toward entering. I entered the Church and began receiving the Eucharist. I finished college. I visited the Abbey every chance I had. I worked as much as I could and applied for a grant to help cover my student loans. When the grant finally came through, and I was able to enter, I almost couldn’t believe it. To this day I still often sit in church in amazed gratitude that I am here, praying the psalms, part of this community.