Writing

From a blog I created called The Gathering Area

Why in the name of sweet baby Jesus did we buy a convent? 

I asked myself that a million times the first year after my family moved into this house, and The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart moved out of their convent. For starters, they had a chapel.

A chapel. Sky blue ceiling. Sixteen feet at the highest arch. Grapevine motif on the beams. Those beams were accented in gold to match the Latin lettering on the arched ceiling. Jesus, Mary and a cement parking lot in the backyard to boot.

Why buy a convent you ask? Well, the year was 2005 and we decided to put our “starter home” on the market and search for that perfect home. The ready-to-move-in, colors-matched-all-our-furniture, clean, sparkly house with a fenced in yard, finished basement, ample space for a growing family and super neighbors who would some day host our kid’s bridal showers. We looked at a LOT of houses. Nothing. Remember 2005? All the good houses were getting snapped up fast. Or, they were way out of our price range. A good friend, in a neighborhood we loved, kept begging us to “come look at the Nun House” — a two-story brick down the street from her. “NO WAY! I am NOT haggling with nuns.” The house was blah on the outside, with landscaping that made absolutely no sense, an antenna on the roof and a parking lot in the backyard. I could see all that just driving by. This house was OUT of the question. No way. Never. For five months I told my friend: NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!

And then our house sold. And they wanted us out in exactly one month. So, I called my friend up the street. “Get ready. We’re going to see the nun house.” She was so excited. We parked out front and walked up to the door. Something was going on — there were 15 or so cars and vans parked in front or behind the house. Their real estate agent had promised us the house would be unoccupied, as The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were having a retreat in another location that day. We knocked on the door and a nun answered, saying they were indeed having a retreat TODAY and could we please, please come back. She was a nun. But (!!!)! We had hired a sitter, and were now officially in a HURRY to find a house! I pleaded with the nun, “Please, just let us take a quick peek around.” That was all it would take for me to know if this was the nightmare I had imagined, or if there was some wild, off-the-wall chance that we might want to come back when we could look around more. And there weren’t 50 Hispanic teenage girls on a mission retreat. She went in the house and convinced the “Mother Superior” to let us in. We all edged through the crowded foyer, smiling and nodding, scanning the surroundings…pictures of Popes lined one wall, Pope red carpet (like Coke red) in a couple rooms, large crucifixes in EVERY room, a huge painting of the Last Supper over the fireplace, and a very long dining room table sat in the middle of the… den. Wallpaper patterns I hadn’t seen since I was 7 covered most walls. Flocked, metallic, mauve. And a crowd was forming outside the powder room, where we looked up and saw IT… a stream of water pouring from the ceiling. Girls were furiously trying to mop up the puddles forming in the, you betcha’, shag carpet. Not that new-fangled shag either. Old, stinky, brown, shaggy shag. I was losing hope minute by minute. And then we came to this room. The Chapel…

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We were in awe over this room… with the windows and the light. Oh, the light. So much light. Rays from heaven were shining in on us! I heard angels singing! Oh wait, no, that was a nun… somewhere. The gold letters? That’s nun for “The love of Christ urges us on.” There was a nun praying in the chapel the entire time we were there. At this point, it still retained the windows and doors that allowed it to act as a separate building. I was creative enough to see the possibilities, though. I could see past the gold letters, the stained glass film, the mauve wallpaper and the Pope Red carpet. I saw a huge unfinished basement, plenty of space for our growing family, and most importantly, best friends five doors up the street. We had our sign from God. It was official.

We had to BUY the convent.

We talked with our agent about what to do. The house had been on the market over nine months, and was priced way too high. The nuns had a horrible agent, and not much traffic coming through. Those few people that did, probably left in a state of shock. For one thing: nuns – hello! I didn’t want to negotiate with nuns, and I’m sure no one else did either. Nuns are like *THAT* with God. You try and low ball ten of them AND the Mother Superior, and there is sure to be wrath, fury, fire, oozing sores, locusts, floods…

These guys… haggled with nuns.

These were missionary nuns, too, not hand-smacking, school-teaching nuns. They did lots of good stuff for lots of people. Every prospective buyer that came through the house probably saw the same storm clouds forming overhead, just waiting for that lighting to strike ’em… or their skin to start falling off. There was also the fact that every square inch of the house needed to be changed – either because it was veerrrry outdated, old, falling apart, or… sacred. Before they moved out, the nuns would need to have the convent desanctified or {de·sa·cral·ized transitive verb : to divest of sacred qualities or status.} It was a leap of faith to imagine this place anything BUT a convent. Then again… the nuns wanted out. They had another bigger mission house farther out in the ‘burbs, and closer to the people they were serving. They were consolidating. We needed a house, FAST. The market was fierce, and we had a price range and location radius we wanted to stay in. We made an offer that was low enough to allow us to invest a chunk of change into some major upgrades. Then we prayed. And stayed in out of the rain. We didn’t have to wait long. They took our offer – no haggling. Haaaaaaaallelujah! At closing, we sat across the table from three nuns. They smiled the entire time. When we handed them the big check for their convent, they giggled and scampered from the room. My husband and I looked at each other with wide eyes. WHAT in the name of sweet baby Jesus… sweet eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus, in your golden, fleece diapers, with your curled-up, fat, balled-up little fists pawin’ at the air, have we gotten ourselves into. There was no turning back. We were moving into a convent.