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Maybe we hadn’t refused the priest or broken any other law of the convent, but perhaps the Mother Superior felt that we were proud and had to be humbled. Perhaps she saw a look of disgust on our faces when we performed our office duties that day. Maybe we refused to cat our bowl of soup at dinner, so she decided that it was best for her to break our proud, haughty spirit and humble us.
One day when we marched to the refectory to eat our dinner, a bowl of soup consisting of cooked vegetables in plain water with no seasoning and a cup of black coffee, was set before me. I refused to eat it because the aroma that met my nostrils was putrid. In fact, the soup was sour.
Nothing was said that day, but the next day when I sat down at our crude table, a few planks of boards stretched across saw-horses, the same bowl of soup was waiting for me. I could take my choice. I could either eat the rotten soup or starve. I attempted to eat it, but I turned deathly sick.
Since we didn’t leave the table nor go anywhere without permission, I remained seated only to vomit the soup back into my plate. That was embarrassing enough. But to add to my embarrassment, humiliation and sick stomach, the Mother Superior stepped over to my side and said, “Now, you eat what’s in your bowl!”
I know it’s too horrible to imagine, but I was compelled to eat my own vomit. I became so deathly ill that I just kept vomiting and could not retain it.
What happened when soup is left? Nothing was wasted in the convent. The Nuns who worked in the Kitchen had to remove all the left-over soup, vomit and all, and place it into the big cooking vats, and add a little soda to sweeten it and serve it the next day.
Now you can understand why I’m thrilled over the luscious food the saints bring to us during our Revivals. When I open our refrigerator and see eggs, bacon, homogenized milk, tomatoes, lettuce, steaks, watermelons, strawberries, etc. I’m overwhelmed with joy.
Sometimes I cry when I sit down to a table of good food. I’m thankful to God for every bite of it. I only wish I could take the hot rolls, grilled steak, buttered corn and iced tea to the convent where I spent the better part of my life and share it with those half-starved Nuns. They would not be able to even digest such food now, though, because their stomachs would be shrunk. The steaks and rolls would be far too rich for their sick stomachs. After twenty-two years in a convent, I almost forgot how an egg, steak, and whole milk looked, let alone tasted.
I shall never forget Convent soup. In fact, I never want to see another soup regardless of its name or the ingredients. When the Doctor weighed me after I escaped from the convent, I tipped the scales at exactly eighty-nine pounds. My cheeks were so hollow that you could see the print of my teeth through the flesh.
May I insert a true story from Africa?
When dear Gladys Robinson returned from Liberia, West Africa, she told of being invited to a native’s home for dinner. The family’s child had attended our school in that jungle and learned to speak some English. When the nice, browned casserole, looking very much like baked macaroni, came in out of the oven, piping hot, the little, black face beamed at mother Robinson and said, “Mother Robinson, those are worms. You won’t eat that.”
She had quite a struggle trying to excuse herself from eating those baked worms. Even the native hostess suspicioned the little fellow had said something, and angrily she asked, “What did he say?” After all, she had taken precious time to dig those worms, wash them and bake them for the missionary!
But we Americans are not in the habit of eating worms, monkey and rice stew, and delicious snake meat. That is, except for we Nuns in the Cloistered Convents. I never had to eat a mouse like I know another Nun did, but I did have to eat a worm. It was one of those night-crawlers or fishing worms. Mother Superior had a number of them in a fruit jar. When she approached me, she merely lifted the jar lid and took out a nice, long earthworm and compelled me to eat it.
Where did she get those worms? Surely she hadn’t been to the yard to dig them up from the soil. There was only one other source. The priests had to have brought them in from the outside.
You see, the priests and the Mother Superior were great pals. They really cooperated with each other. Sometimes we Nuns were instructed to lie on the floor in the form of a cross with our faces down. The remaining Nuns marched over our bodies for one hour or several hours depending upon how long the Mother Superior deemed necessary to humiliate us.
I have laid prostrate in the form of a cross for three days without food or water. I had to wash the Mother Superior’s feet, only to be made to drink the dirty water when finished. This was truly humiliating. However, I have been so thirsty, especially when sick with raging fever, that I would have gladly washed the Mother Superiors feet and drank every drop of the dirty water just to cool my parched tongue.