I sat in the second to last pew of the Siena Center’s incredible mid-century designed chapel next to a super old nun who was in a wheel chair.  We were the only two holding down the fort.

She had called me over to sit next to her the moment I arrived and I was grateful.  Her wrinked face told me how much wisdom she had and I was so happy to talk with her because I’m fascinated by all the ways people see God and I suspected she’d share what she sees with me.

After learning I was at the center for a silent meditation retreat, she suggested she teach me how to pray and I teach her how to meditate.

Half way through my guided meditation she took my hand, interrupting our practice.  She had noticed my tattoo that I thought I had hidden behind my long sleeve shirt.  She pulled my sleeve back and I braced myself praying (just like she taught me) that she didn’t have a ruler or any other instrument people always describe while telling angry nun stories.   She smiled.

We paused and then she started to pull up her nun-skirt ( what do you call those things?) and pointed to a small tattoo on her ankle.   I nearly died right their under the crucified Jesus.

“I wasn’t always a nun” she said with a smirky mischievous smile, one I’ve had on my face for the better part of my whole life.

“clearly” I said, laughing so hard the bench was shaking.  “Do you regret it?” I asked

“Hell no!  We are all the sum of our history.. don’t ever forget that”



Here’s an essay from my last silent retreat at this beautiful monastery