CM: Thank you for your time
Sister! I am so happy to share your story with our readers! Could you
please start off with a brief description of the plot of
Amata Means Beloved?
Amata Means Beloved is the
story of a young woman's first steps in contemplative-cloistered life and
how with God's grace she confronts what is holding her back from giving
herself completely to God. It is a story about the power of God's grace,
the struggle to forgive and the purification of motives and desires. It's
also a window into the reality of what goes on inside a cloistered
CM: What was your inspiration for
writing this book?
I'm not really sure how I came to write
Amata Means Beloved! For a
long time I wanted to share the joy of living the contemplative life--of
belonging to God alone. There are so many misconceptions about the
contemplative life even among "devout" Catholics. Sometimes with a story,
rather than a factual article or book one can more easily convey truth and
someone who may not be interested in learning about nuns and monasteries
might however, read fiction.
CM: Please share with our readers a bit of
information about your own background and family, your faith journey and
your vocational call?
I am the youngest of two girls. Both of us are adopted. My
mom wanted a large family and the story goes that my parents adopted my
sister and she was one child and then they adopted me and I was the
equivalent of nine children! I grew up in rural Massachusetts and attended
a small Catholic school run by Religious Sisters. The school was so small
that I was the only one in my senior class. We got a great classical
education and the familial atmosphere fostered close friendships. I
maintain ties with friends that I've had for 25-30 years! That's unusual
today, I think.
I knew since I was about six that I wanted to be a nun. I
wanted to belong totally to Jesus as His spouse and I couldn't wait until
I turned 18! Shortly after graduation from high school I entered the
congregation of sisters that had taught me in school. I thought I wanted
to be a teacher and the apostolate of this congregation was education and
person-to-person evangelization but they were also semi-monastic. However,
my two years in the novitiate were very difficult. I knew I had a vocation
but I didn't know where the Lord wanted me to live it out! I left and
began exploring other congregations. Slowly, the Lord began to get a word
in and much to my surprise I began to realize that I was being called to
the cloistered-contemplative way of life! It seems like I was the last
person to find this out and that many others thought the Lord was calling
me to this life! At first, this was not easy to accept. Eventually, I
found out about this Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary and entered in
1991. I've been a cloistered nun for over 13 years.
CM: I fell in love with the character
of Emily/Amata...is she a reflection of your own life or a composite of
"characters" you've encountered in your community?
There is probably more of me in Emily than I care to admit!
Yes, some of Emily is a reflection on my own life. I did at one time have
to struggle with the need to forgive someone who had seriously hurt me and
I had to struggle with issues of rejection coming from being adopted. It
wasn't an easy road but I learned how much I had to lean totally on God
and His love for me and that everything He permits is an opportunity to
grow in love and grow in holiness. I did not set out to intentionally hide
behind the character of Emily but one has to write from one's own
experience if it is to be authentic.
CM: With your busy and full schedule
living in a contemplative community, how have you found time to write,
publish and promote your novel?
It wasn't easy! Part of the asceticism of monastic life is
that the day is seeming broken up by the times for the Divine Office and
prayer. Everything else is subordinated to this. However, in the novitiate
one learns not to waste a minute and you'd be amazed as to what you can do
in 5 minutes! So, Amata
Means Beloved was written in small snatches
of time. If I was on "turn" duty, i.e. answering the door or phone, and
things were quiet, I would have a good block of time to write. I find,
though, that I write best at night, after Compline. The realization that
the next morning I would be getting up at 4:30 AM did hamper me from
staying up too late!
CM: What can Catholic parents do to
foster religious vocations in our families? How can Catholic families
support the religious communities in our home towns?
This is a great question! First, parents have to be
convinced of the value and beauty of the priesthood and consecrated life.
They won't foster vocations if they don't value this way of living the
Christian vocation. Teach them to pray for the gift of a religious
vocation. Also, taking them to visit convents and monasteries and
priories so that they'll meet priests, sisters and brothers. For example,
we have a family that comes every Sunday to pray the rosary in our extern
chapel. Meeting the sister who lets them in at the door is as "normal" to
them as meeting anyone on the street. They are growing up knowing what the
cloistered life is all about. If you don't know much about the religious
life, don't hesitate to call or write a religious community and ask for
information and tell them that you want to teach your children about
religious life and have correct information. If you teach CCD or teach in
a Catholic School, consider arranging to bring your class to visit a
monastery. Prepare the kids and help them formulate questions. (The
younger grades don't need help; they are full of questions!). We also have
a large mother-daughter group that comes every First Friday to pray
the Rosary in our chapel. Another great way to foster vocations is to
arrange for your children to volunteer to work with religious in their
apostolates. If it's a monastery, offer your help and perhaps the nuns
will have something up their sleeve for you to do! For example, every year
boys from a local prep school come and help pick the apples in our
orchard. We have volunteers that work in our "front office" and it would
be great way for a young woman in high school to volunteer.
The most important way families can support religious in
their hometowns is to pray for them. The marvelous gift of the Mystical
Body of Christ is that we need each to grow in holiness and religious are
no exception. Another way is to volunteer if you have the time. It might
even be contacting the community and saying, "Sister, if you ever need me
to pick something up for you at the grocery store, or pick someone up at
the airport, etc. please don't hestiate to call me." They'll understand if
you have other obligations if they do call you.
Remembering the community on it's patronal feast or on
Consecrated Life Day (February 2nd) or November 21st which is dedicated to
cloistered nuns, is another way. Perhaps stopping by the monastery with
fruit, vegetables or baked goods or maybe a book (like Amata!). It
doesn't have to be anything fancy. Makes sure you take your children with
you because not only will it be good for your kids to get to know the
religious, the community will like it, too!
CM: Do you have any writing plans for
I have a few ideas roaming in my head. A few articles and
perhaps a sequel to
Amata Means Beloved. However,
right now I feel I need to step back from writing and be more silent for
awhile and listen more intensely to the Lord. I leave the writing up to
Him. If He wants it, the Holy Spirit provides the inspiration.
CM: Could you please educate us on the
mission of your own community?
My monastery is part of the Order of Preachers, the
Dominicans. We were founded in 1206 by St. Dominic ten years before he
founded the friars. Our mission in the Church is one of prayer and
adoration. From our contemplation of Christ flows our desire and passion
for the mission of the Order of Preachers which is preaching for the
salvation of souls. St. Dominic founded the nuns to be intimately
connected to the "Holy Preaching" of the brethren. So, we are
contemplatives in an apostolic Order. My monastery also has the privilege
of the "Adoring Rosary"--there is always a nun before the exposed Blessed
Sacrament contemplating the mysteries of Salvation in the Rosary.
CM: Thank you again for your time and
for sharing the gift of your writing in this beautiful story. Are there
any closing thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?
God bless you and your Sisters!
First, thanks for highlighting
Amata Means Beloved and for
the opportunity to share a little about cloistered-contemplative life.
Secondly, I have to mention how much catholic moms inspire me in my own
vocation as a spiritual mother. The thousand everyday acts of selflessness
and charity you exercise toward your families is an example and
reminder for me in my life in the monastery. Please be assured of my
prayers for each of you! Now, that I'm in my 30's I can appreciate
everything my mom did for me....I think you should all be canonized!
May the Virgin and her loving Child bless you all!
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