Nuns in Kentucky Ice

On February 14, a Passionist Nun from St. Joseph’s Monastery posted their first news and photos of the January 27 ice storm which – though barely mentioned in the press, or by the steak-eating, super-bowl-watching president – claimed over 50 lives and (as of the 14th when the nun was writing) has left many thousands still without power.

I…heard tremendous popping and crashing sounds. This was the sound of trees, tops of trees and very large branches completely covered in ice, breaking and crashing to the ground in the woods surrounding our monastery.

The next day brought a devastating beauty as everything was covered with 1 1/2 inches of ice and we began a 5 day odyssey of no electricity. By the way, today is day 18 for many people in our area still without power. Thankfully we have had mild temperatures these past couple of weeks which helped warm up the homes of those who have roughed it out without a generator.

We are very blessed to have a generator that kept one refrigerator and freezer running plus the treatment plant. Some electrical outlets worked and we made good use of our flashlights. We have gas stoves and ovens so we had hot water and hot food – what a blessing those 2 things are! But we had no heat! How very, very blessed we were that our chaplain Fr. Ray Clark and Msgr. Powers came to stay in our guest quarters, which, considering there are no outside walls in this area, is the warmest place in the monastery. We had 2 priests and daily Mass! We converted our parlors into a cozy chapel, for as you can imagine, with all those stained glass windows in the main chapel, it was freezing in there!

It was interesting to see the various coordinations of clothing each Sister put together to stay warm. I personally was up to 7 layers of clothing by the final day! Mother lifted the fast and the abstinence from meat and we took our recreations during our meal time (meaning we talked while we ate). We joked that we were “fasting from heat”! We even had and AME (After-Meal-Entertainment) one evening, by candlelight of course, which drew belly-aching laughter.

These days certainly spoke to us about living without computers, light, heat, outside contacts (we didn’t have mail until the next week!) survival and dependence on Divine Providence. This was just an amazing and unforgettable experience. Yet, we were sobered in recalling that many poor people and homeless people live like this in a daily basis. We also thought much about those persons who live in hurricane areas (many of you!) and how this was somewhat similar to that.

Jesus, we offer these inconveniences to you for many intentions, especially for an end to abortion and for respect for all persons, the disabled, the elderly, the immigrant, etc.

I love monastics – through it all, they kept their faith and their senses of humor, and they kept to their hours of prayer, too, in the Liturgy of the Hours – their Opus Dei – their proper work, so to speak.

Reading this reminded me a little of reading The Hiding Place, particularly when Corrie Ten Boom writes about how she, her elderly father, her sister and the Jews they were hiding from the Nazis would entertain themselves by reading plays (by the light of a bicycle lamp and a willing pair of legs) and poetry or creating little dramas. As though life for them was not dramatic enough.

Life, I think, is going to be fraught with a great deal of drama, for all of us, this year and for the foreseeable future. These nuns give us good example of how to endure with faith, trust, humor and humility. Perhaps one to keep and read again on down-days.

Related: IrishTimes Why are so many of us mislead on vocations? H/T
“Let us arise to Glorify Him; Benedictine Monastics”
Why Doesn’t God Provide More Evidence that He Exists?

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Acer Palmatum

    I never see nuns any more. Oh occasionally sure, but my kids never have had any interaction with them. Most parochial schools do not have nuns any more. I remember nuns and they were pretty dynamic women! My science teacher in middle school was a nun (and no she did not teach creationism, she was extremely knowledgable and had her masters in Chemistry and Biology). History was taught by a nun who had done years of missionary work in South America, she knew her Incan history down cold and could also tell us about having beer made of corn chewed by Incan woman and spit into fermenting jars. Homebrew!

    The great nuns used to know how to deal with boys. One told us that the difference between a boy and a man is a boy says everything on his mind, a man knows when to keep it to himself. They also did not make us ashamed for being boys, when we acted up they gave us more work and things to do around the school to channel that energy. It was not looked as a negative, just engergy that could be harnessed.

    There were some crazy nuns too. One senile one (for the life of me why they put her in first grade made no sense) used to throw our text books out of the windows. She retired.

    Another loved to rap us with rulers in first grade. I got welts for looking at the illustrated Catholic Bible and commenting the picture of Jesus on the Cross was disgusting. I did not mean Jesus was disgusting, but it was a pretty graphic drawing. When I told my parents, they did not beat me again (as is the legend about getting in trouble with the nuns) but they did not freak out like many parents now a days do about the least slight to their children–instead my mom said there is sometimes injustice in the world and rather than complain about a relatively small thing I should think on how Jesus must of felt on the cross.

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  • Ellen

    My sister lives near the Passionist Nuns in Kentucky. She and her husband got their power on last Sunday. All in all, the response from Kentuckians warmed my heart. Most people came together to help their neighbors, clear the roads and they generally pulled together. No crime, no looting, no bad behavior.

    And on February 12th, Lincoln’s birthday, The One was everywhere he could be except in Kentucky – the place where Lincoln was born.

    I am taking your advice Anchoress, and this Lent is going to be a time of serious prayer and fasting on my part. The more I read about the bill, the more nasty surprises it turns out to contain.


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