Ten seconds to nine-o -five
(tap, tap, tap sings the laptop)
. . . nine seconds to nine-o-five
(tap, tappity tap, tap)
. . . eight seconds . . .
(tap tap tappity tappity, tappity, tap)
. . . seven seconds . . .
(hit control-save; shut down)
. . . six . .
(flap the screen down - thump; shove it on the shelf)
. . . five . . .
(swish the bed-sheets back, slide in between them )
. . . four seconds . . . three . . .
(click goes the lamp switch)
. . . two . . .
. . . one . . . NINE - O - FIVE!
Such was the last ten seconds of last Tuesday for my young charge. She was working on an assignment - Theology, you know - and the paper was due on Wednesday. Time is a strange thing - it moves very fast, and even though my protégé has been living in it all her life, she still hasn't managed to compute just what speed it goes at, and plan her activities accordingly.
Oh, before I go any further, I should introduce myself. I am one of the residents of Rosary Convent, Tynong. However, unless you happen to be very high up in the service of God, you probably won't see me should you happen to visit. I am a Guardian Angel of one of these budding Dominicans. Modest as the title looks on paper, I think it fails to illustrate the scope and strain attached to such a position!
Not that I complain - on the contrary! Guarding souls is one of the most sublime duties Almighty God can honour one of His creatures with. Nevertheless, while becoming the guardian of a young religious may be viewed in the light of a promotion of sorts, it does bring with it an entire string of new cares and responsibilities. For one thing, my little protégé seems to have undergone a strange metamorphosis, whereby she is in more in need of divine assistance than ever! Upon entering the Novitiate, she left a good many things behind - her old life, most of her possessions, her ordinary clothes, her family. She also seems to have left a bit of her memory behind, since I've had a lot of plaintive requests to remind her of things lately, such as the following:
"Tuesday evening is my turn to serve at table, dear Angel - please don't let me forget!"
Or "Good Angel, what date is that Literature Essay due?"
Or "Holy Angel, please remind me to turn the oven on at four-seventeen so that dinner will be hot in time for tea!"
Or (I generally get this one at five-o-six in the morning) "Good Angel, what day is it today?"
. . . One generally has the vague notion that it is grownups (or at least young adults) who enter the Novitiate - well, I must say that in my own experience, my little sister has become very childlike again in her dependence! Or perhaps it would be fairer to say that she realizes more concretely that she is unmistakably finite, and consequently leans more heavily on supernatural aid.
The practical side of Religious Life, for those who are just getting used to it, can be rather bewildering at times. With a busy schedule composed of prayer, study, more prayer and more study; varied with a healthy dose of all the work attached to being human (such as cooking spaghetti and washing coffee-cups), it is small wonder that brand-new postulants wander about the convent with a look halfway between preoccupation and semi-befuddlement.
I don't blame them. Fortunately, prayer occupies such a prominent part of the Dominican day that it is relatively easy to remind my protégé what all this busy-ness is about. All these varied labours are for the Divine Resident in the Chapel, at Whose Feet the Community gather many times during the day, to join us Angels in praising the Divine Majesty.
Having readjusted her spiritual compass, my little charge looks to see what comes next. Perhaps it's time to attend lectures. If that's the case I remind her to bring a pen along, (very easy to forget such a small piece of scholastic apparatus).
Perhaps it's time to work on assignments. If so, I take up a position looking over her shoulder as she taps away on a computer. Some days she can type non-stop, and have a very decent collection of words on her sheet by the end of forty minutes. Other times the tapping is sporadic, and my poor little scholar wriggles her head and her fingers helplessly by turns - clearly there's a thought coming, but it just won't come.
So I reach in and give it a push, and then it's business as normal. Other days she'll set herself up nicely with a large array of books spread out on the table and alternate between looking out the window for inspiration and rubbing her forehead to help the ideas bud.
After about ten minutes of this, she remembers that she can ask me for help, and I whisper an activation word in her ear. Perhaps its 'despot', or 'dynamic', or 'liberation theology' or (this was a good one for helping along a Theology essay) 'objective conceptualisation'.
Since the Dominican specialty is to know the Truth in order to teach it, you can guess that study takes up a great deal of Dominican time, and it's in this area that my young charge likes best to know that I am near. There is such a great deal (for the human mind) to learn and the quantity of knowledge seems overwhelming at times to my little sister. I have never had the experience of being mentally bogged by a billion or more facts, ranging from the gymnastics of Gregorian neums to the gory kaleidoscope going by the name of the French Revolution, but I understand that it is not a pleasant one. However, it is my happy lot to sort out these scary arrays of knowledge and help fit them into her 'little brain'. At the same time, I find that the best remedy for any restlessness -mental or otherwise - is the whisper that it is not necessary to memorize ALL these wordy definitions of impersonal truth to be a good Dominican - the most important Truth to know is a Person - the Word of God.