Sister Mary of the Compassion
Sister Mary of the compassion, O.P.
“You would not be seeking Me,
if you had not already found Me.”
- St. Augustine
I am a convert from paganism. Born in Maine into a family with Christian values but no church affiliation…my search for God began when I was ten, but it to lead nowhere. Classes in philosophy at UC Berkeley eventually lured me into atheistic communism.
When World War II was declared, I applied to the Office of International Censorship and worked there for seventeen months. After the war I was told that I myself had been under surveillance because of my previous communist activities!
One day in a letter I encountered Catholicism and said my first prayer: “Oh God, if there is a God, give me this faith.” Finally, at age 28, I was received into the Church by the Jesuits at the University of San Francisco.
Before the Lord found me, I had looked into other options, which in those days were few – teaching, nursing, library work, and secretarial work. I tried them all. Teaching (high school) I loved, especially the kids, but a lifetime occupation? Couldn’t imagine it.
I decided to get married and teach my own kids. Marriage was the number one priority at the time. But now there were too many options.
“There are three,” I told my father, “and I could be happy with any one of them, with all three of them.” ~ “We live in a monogamous society.” He said “and somewhere the one you are looking for is looking for you. One day you’ll find each other. You’re young. Wait.” I was 23 years old.
During my long journey I had sometimes thought of becoming a nun, and eventually was directed to the Carmelites where the prioress told me a Carmelite has a vocation not just to Carmel but to a particular Carmel, “and when you find it you will know.” But I never found it.
Discouraged and beginning to think I had no vocation to be a nun, I decided to make a retreat at Vallombrosa. One evening I went over to the Gothic chapel across the street for Benediction and knew beyond doubt that this was my monastery. I was sure it was not Carmelite; indeed, I guessed it was Benedictine. Whatever it was, I knew it was here I would spend the rest of my life.