Life has been one long fairground ride with God and the ride never stops. My first experience with the sisters was a positive one and I loved them and wanted to be one of them. I wanted to join the community after 8th grade.
At that time the sisters sponsored a private high school in Mendham, New Jersey for girls who felt called to religious life. My mom and dad wanted me to wait because I was so young but in the middle of my freshmen year they knew that I really wanted to enter, so with their help and blessing I began the process.
I left home at the age of 15 to follow my dream and for 45 years I have been living it out. I loved being in the convent and living with the sisters. I missed my family very much but I loved God so much that I knew this is what I was to do. At the time I entered there were about 55 other high school girls from around the country who also attended.
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Many of them are still in the community and it is really nice to share our experiences with each other. I have so many memories of my students, their parents, staff, and co-workers over the years. I play the guitar. Just last year I received a phone call from a boy I gave lessons to over 20 years ago who is now a professional guitar player.
I remember the years I taught 8th grade and somehow got roped into being the assistant cheerleading coach!
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Through the 10 years I was a teacher I had a lot of fun! I remember my first day doing supervision on the playground as a principal. I gasped and ran to find a little girl whose two wooden legs had disconnected and only needed to be bolted together again. I later found out that she lost her legs in a fire when she was only a few months old.
To all of you who are journeying with me right now in Hoboken, at this juncture of my life, I say thank you and know being here with you is just fantastic! We are a mixed order, saying our prayers in chapel five times a day and doing work and ministry out in the community.
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We also provide hospitality for those on retreat in our guest house. We currently live in Augusta, Georgia and are building a new convent in North Augusta, South Carolina where we will move this summer. We are known for our inclusive and expansive language breviary prayer book and for pushing the monastic life into the future. At the end of that time, God willing, I will make life profession.
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I am also a priest in the Episcopal Church. I work in ministry as a spiritual director, retreat presenter, and priest and pastor for a small church community. I also work in the hospitality ministry of the order. I love my life and believe I am called by God to be here. These are questions about why there are monks and nuns at all and what purpose do they serve. When someone begins to ask these questions it can be a sign that they are exploring the possibility of a call to monastic life and that excites us a great deal!
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Our sister, Mary Michael, was the first Episcopal religious sister to be ordained to the priesthood in We wear regular clothes for our every day work and don the habit for feast day gatherings, retreats, conventions and other special occasions. We have several women in discernment with us at the moment between the ages of 20 and Discernment is key and is ongoing for several years, even after a woman comes to live in the community. Melodrama, though it might seem related, is in reality nothing like nostalgia—melodrama is about exasperation with the present, not a yearning for the past.
Every time the action threatens to reach a plateau of routine or narrative equilibrium, Aira introduces a destabilizing element. Other authors use plot surprises to create rising action the soap opera-patented device of revealing unexpected blood ties, for example. But Aira does something different. In each of his novels, events and narration typically swirl into denser and denser configurations that challenge the postulates of verisimilitude, reason, or good taste—or all three.
How is all of this going to come together? There are episodes in his fictions which push readers, myself included, to shake the book and say, come on. One such episode is in Yo era una chica moderna , when the two female protagonists murder another woman and tear a mutant fetus from her womb. Just plain silly?
And perhaps it is around this last word that some sort of critical consensus has been reached, because more than a novelist or writer per se an inventor is what Aira is, an inventor of strange literary artistic artifacts. This versatility is possible only because at the heart of each Aira novel there is a marvelously ingenious storytelling device—a premise, central anecdote, or plot mechanism—which Aira exploits to the nth potential.
He has a vertigo-inducing capacity to suggest a cornucopia of stories even while telling just one. They have the same compressed nature, the same power to suggest a universe of meaning despite being short texts. Aira himself has referred to the work of literature as analogous to the creation of Russian dolls, those bulbous wooden ones that fit one inside of the other until one arrives at the final miniature doll, its features nearly illegible.
In doing so they simulate a kind of search for the essence of story, of anecdote—of the tale in its purest essence. It is a lab in which Aira, or Dr. He is incorrigible: he has the blind optimism of a dreamer. According to Aira, he never edits his own work, nor does he plan ahead of time how his novels will end, or even what twists and turns they will take in the next writing session. He is loyal to his idea that making art is above all a question of procedure. Why is procedure all-important? Because it is relevant beyond the individual creator. Anyone can use it. Instead, the system prioritizes an ethic of creative self-affirmation and, I would say, optimism.
To labor to justify previous work with more strange creations that in turn establish the need for ever more artistic high-wire acts in the future—this is the continuum, the high-wire act the artist must perform when he refuses to submit to any rule that is not his autonomously chosen procedure.
It is an act performed with deep abysses yawning to each side of him—conformity, market pressures, conventionality, self-repression of all kinds. True, his books are very short. They are stories, pure and simple, which Aira has managed to ennoble by seeing them into publication in the form of a single book. Literature is perhaps nothing more complicated and glorious than the act of writing and publishing, and publishing again and again.
Aira publishes seemingly with whomever shows any interest in his manuscripts; at least a dozen publishers, most of them small independents, in Argentina alone. The idea seems to be: publish first and ask questions later. Aira is prolific not in terms of volume, like a Balzac or an Updike, but in the category of velocity, the dizzying frequency with which he publishes. It might be accurate to say that Aira is not really a prolific writer but a prolific publisher of his writing.
If Aira wanted unanimously favorable reviews, he would refrain from publishing his weaker books and edit out questionable portions of his novels. Aira is now entering the late stage of his career, and it seems he has begun to take stock. Here in a typically contradictory manner Aira is referencing his own career. In a sense, though, Aira has always been chasing his own tail.
All his books revolve around the basic questions haunting art: What is it? How do I do it?
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It was the same questions medieval alchemists asked: What is the essence of matter, and how do I master it? Like a true alchemist, Aira does not despair about the answers that always slip away: he enjoys the dizzying running around in circles, the constant asking. I only wonder how long he will do it for. I wonder whether he might not be nearing the point at which his search for the source of literature might come to a natural conclusion.
The history of philosophy, literature, and art is full of examples of great thinkers and artists who abandoned their search once they felt they had explored all its potential. For a time, Wittgenstein abandoned philosophy and became a schoolteacher. Duchamp abandoned art for chess. Rimbaud gave up writing.