From Convent to Pentecost

Chapter 20

Jealousy is Cruel as the Grave (Song of Solomon 8:6)

In the convent, jealousy ran rampantly. We had no God to give us self-assurance or confidence. Neither did we have faith in ourselves, much less have faith in those sisters and priests for whom we worked and came in contact with.

One Nun had breast cancer. She was in the last stages of the disease and badly needed medical attention. In fact, the offensive odor filled the room and we were nauseated to even breathe the air in that room.

Sister Anna was summoned by the Mother Superior to dress the cancerous breast and drain the corruption into a cup. After this procedure, Sister Anna was compelled by Mother Theresa to drink the contents! Of all brutal treatments administered in the convent, I felt this was the most horrible.

Soon the same, hideous cancer that spread throughout Sister Anna’s body gripped Sister Theresa’s body and death was inevitable. But what if she did die? Another beautiful flower would take her place, although it, too, would soon whither and die in the convent atmosphere.

My turn came to work in the kitchen with five other Nuns. I prepared the potatoes for soup. I lost so much weight and strength through heavy forms of penance and such a rigid diet that I dropped the pan of potatoes while lifting them to the table to peel them. Mother Superior became very indignant because I was so careless to break holy silence. She quickly returned and threw a meat cleaver at my face. To ward off the blow, I threw up my hands. The meat cleaver struck my hand and glanced off, striking my breast. Several double stitches had to be taken to sew the wound in my breast, all because I dropped a pan of potatoes and broke silence.

Sometimes a few Nuns were chosen to do penance by laying flat on the floor while the other Nuns walked over us and stepped on our stomachs as they passed over. This gave great opportunity for a jealous Nun to seek revenge. She not only stepped in the pit of our stomachs, but screwed her heel at the same time. This resulted in terrible injuries and caused Nuns to suffer the rest of their lives.

One day while I prayed and chanted in the chapel, Mother Superior addressed me. As was the custom, I fell prostrate before her and kissed her feet. When I lifted my head so that my inquiring eyes met my gaze, she threw something that set my face on fire. I do not know what it was. It may have been acid or some flammable mixture concocted by the Mother and her helpers, or a very potent poison used as a means to kill me or injure and mar my face as a lifetime reminder. I only know I went stone blind. My face burned as if it were held over an open fire. It must have been when one of the Mother Superiors’ fits of temper exploded and her jealous nature was seeking revenge. She didn’t really want me to die or to go blind, because dead or blind Nuns could not do the work we were required to do.

She called in an outside “Church” doctor to treat me, which they did only on very rare occasions. He inquired as to how my eyes were injured. The Mother Superior very nonchalantly pointed to me while I laid on the infirmary cot and said, “She injured them.”

I wanted to scream out and say, “Mother, why did you lie? You know you burned my eyes!” But I didn’t dare tell the truth. After medication, he bandaged my eyes and said, “After a few days I will return to remove these bandages.” And with that, he left.

Hope and then doubt surged through my brain. Would I ever see again? I kept telling myself that I would see after the doctor removed the bandages.

Along with the blindness, I had an unquenchable thirst. When a Nun passed my cot I whispered, “Water.” Each Nun, however, had to pass me by. Of course, they weren’t allowed to go near any water.

Seemingly weeks went by before the doctor returned. There was enough darkness and dreariness that prevailed in the convent with two good eyes. But, oh! — how dark with two blind eyes and a deathly silence broken only by the chants in the chapel, or by a board that creaked in the floor as the Nuns tip-toed to their several duties.

Finally Mother Superior opened the door of the Infirmary and presented Dr. Currello. I was so happy that he didn’t fail to come. With kind words and gentle hands he took off layers of gauze. With great expectancy I waited for him to remove the last layer, but the thrill turned to chill. My hopes fled into despair. My dreams shattered like crystal in a great banquet hall. Yes, I was blind. Blinded forever, I presumed. I couldn’t see the doctor’s form nor any other object in the room. I couldn’t distinguish light from darkness.

However, as time passed on I began to see a little light. A few weeks later I began to discern objects about me. Then, thank God, I was able to see again, not normally, but to the extent that I could move around and perform my duties as a Nun.

Just a few years ago, after having been out of the convent for a considerable length of time, I went to an optician to secure a pair of glasses. After checking my eyes, he exclaimed, “Lady, you’ve had a severe injury. I’m afraid these glasses will be the last ones you’ll ever purchase. You’re gradually going blind. You only have four percent vision in one eye and only eight percent in the other!”

That was bad news, however not startling. I was told that a yellow strip of fleshly tissue had formed on the eyeball from the burn. From the Doctor’s office I went to the Pastor of the local church where I was speaking. The pastor and saints had special prayer for me. As a result, the Lord graciously and marvelously healed my body and gave me the eyes normal for a woman of my age.

On another occasion, Mother Superior addressed me as I stood at the head of the stairway. When I prostrated myself at her feet, she pushed me causing me to fall the full length of the stairs. When I landed at the bottom of the stairs, I struck something very sharp that lacerated my hip severely. I lost consciousness, and when I survived, Mother Superior stood over me with a surgical needle and cat-gut thread. I didn’t expect her to give me an anesthetic, but would let me agonizingly watch her, in butcher-style, take the stitches to sew up the gap in my hip. But, no. She placed the needle in my hand and compelled me to sew the wound in my own hip. I took a stitch and fainted, only to be revived and forced to continue the sewing operation. It was quite a gash, and I bled profusely. Though I sat in a pool of blood, while my hands shook and my heart pounded, I finally sewed the last stitch.