From Convent to Pentecost

Chapter 5

Identification Gone — Shaved Like a Convict

My hair had also been cut, every hair was removed by clippers. Even the hair is sold to the highest bidder, so nothing is lost.

My name was changed. I lost all identification. I was named after my Patron Saint — Sister Patricia. If in the future my family or friends would come to the speak room and ask for Charlotte, the Mother Superior would answer from behind the black grail, “There is no one here by that name.” If they would call for me by church name, and I were ill or locked in a dungeon beneath the ground, or if (as some cases I have known of) I died a horrible death, the Mother Superior would have another Nun step to the big black grail and imitate my voice. (Of course, you can’t be seen, only heard.) The following colloquy had taken place many times:

Relative speaks: “Hello, how are you?”

Nun: “I’m fine, thank-you.”

You don’t sound natural, Charlotte.” “I have a cold. My voice is bad.”

Do you have plenty to eat?”

Yes, we have plenty to eat.”

Why did we lie? Because the Mother Superior was standing beside us. We dared not tell the truth for fear of the consequences. On occasions, a relative brought choice food to the convent. As the bell rang, the Mother Superior answered at the black grail; a small gate with shelves automatically opened, received the food, and automatically closed. But did the Nun receive the choice cake or special fruit? No! She remained on her rigid diet. The priests and Mother Superior were to enjoy the delicacy.

I well remember one occasion when Mother Superior called me. As I came into her presence, I bowed, kissed her feet as usual, and awaited my instructions She then presented me with a lovely box of cookies saying, “These came from your mother.” With great joy I reached out to take the cookies only to be repulsed with the stem rebuke, “You selfish thing! How could you eat these cookies, with millions in the outside world dying of hunger?”

I turned shamefaced and tiptoed back to my cell and knelt on my prayer board and poured out my tears to my Patron Saint and the Virgin Mary. Who got the cookies? Your guess is as good as mine — but I’ve always felt that Mother Superior and the priest enjoyed them to the fullest extent.