Amanda Bennett: A Year in Zaragoza, Spain

The Nuns Near the Corte Inglés January 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — psychohistoria @ 4:09 pm

I had never seen a nun before arriving in Zaragoza. The extent of my knowledge was gleaned from the blasphemous Almodóvar movie Dark Habits and the ever-classic Sound of Music. When I went to interview the Siervas de María for my journalism class, I didn’t expect the nuns to burst into song in response to my questions, but I didn’t really have any idea of what would happen.
I had worked up the courage to knock on the door the day before, urged on by my reportaje deadline. It was about 1 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. I explained to the woman who opened the door that I was a student in the American high school writing an article about the nuns of Zaragoza. She responded that they took care of sick people, that they were sleeping, and to come back the next day at 11.
Thoroughly confused (who was sleeping, the nuns or the patients?), I nevertheless returned on Sunday to gather some more information. The woman who opened the door this time was much more welcoming, greeting me with the Spanish cheek kisses and inviting me in even before I’d said who I was. We walked down a long dark hallway and she led me into a room outfitted with chairs and a table, flicked on the light, and invited me to sit down. I’d told her my story on the way, and she was intrigued by the “American-high-school-in-Zaragoza” thing (most Zaragozanos have no idea we exist).
“We’re talking right now,” she said, explaining the voices reverberating down the hall. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. In the meantime, here is some information about our founder, Santa María Soledad, and a booklet we published to celebrate 125 years in Zaragoza. Here,” she said, flipping to a page, “this is my testament.”She bustled out, and I started to read.
I read about a woman who had heard “the call” at about 14, but didn’t want to follow it. She went out with friends, and even got engaged, before she was finally able to come to terms with the fact that the life she was living was false. She decided to join the Siervas de María, the name of the order I visited.
She and another nun came back, and we all sat down.
“So, what is a typical day like for you all?” I asked.
“Well, we get back at 6 or 7 from taking care of the sick,” said Mercedes, adding, “I’ll start in the morning.”
That’s right, she was talking about 6 or 7 a.m. The Siervas de María dedicate their lives to nighttime house calls. Trained as nurses, they take care of the sick so that their families can rest. The rest of their day is filled with prayer, oration, meals, taking care of the house, and sleep.
Although I could never imagine being a nun myself, I left filled with respect for these women who decide to dedicate their lives to helping others. And they were so…nice. And happy. Truly happy. Mercedes told me, “Yes, you have to leave things behind, but for better things. You have a love of God that fills you up.”


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