The Ph. D. nun.

Took the dogs to the vet on Orcas with Mother Hildegard. We drove the back roads that pass lakes and farmland. She slammed on her brakes every time there was an interesting bird perched on a log or fence post (avid birder). It was nice to get more of her story and to have three nervous dogs cuddled up to me.

One of MH's Portuguese Water Dogs (Koko, also known as Nunu, nonny, lulu, bebe, koksie, depending on her mood)

M. Hildegard always thought she wanted to be a children’s surgeon. In her schooling, she went the route of child psychology instead. She took her monastic vows at Regina Laudis (Our Lady of the Rock’s mother Abbey) when she was 26, but that didn’t stop her from continuing the mastery of her studies and work. She was one of the first (perhaps the first) nuns to receive a phD while living at a monastery. M. Hildegard was an early pioneer in the field of animal-assisted therapy for children. She started with a group of troubled kids, one hundred farm animals, and long car rides with the kids and a newfoundland dog in the backseat that she considered “therapy sessions.” Eventually, llamas became her primary vessels. For the last 25 years on Shaw Island, M. Hildegard ran a 4H club for children and adolescents that enabled them to work intimately with their own animal; fun and educational animal interaction with deep therapeutic power.

I think there’s a misconception with monastics that life outside of the monastery ends or is cut off when vows are taken; they are confined behind walls, recluse and isolated. On the contrary, these women are ambitious and talented intellectuals. While they believe that their daily prayers and intentions to God are their primary vocation, they are actively generous with their gifts and expertise in the society surrounding them.


MH with one of her 13 llamas, MH driving Koko in her Ford Expedition (photos from Seattle Pi)

http://media.wix.com/ugd/00af52_181ac57515cb889769d7cbb0b27e2cca.pdf –link to one of MH’s articles for those interested in animal-assisted therapy for children

Ashes from Mass. The Lenten season has begun! (In which case, that exclamation point was unfitting.) Apparently, you aren’t allowed to say Alleluia either.

I have chosen to abstain from Facebook and dessert. It makes me sort of embarrassed to say that those are the things that distract me from purity of body, mind, and soul, but I guess I should be grateful that I don’t struggle with any more heavily negligent vices. And the whole dessert thing was never a problem until coming here. These nuns gotta have dessert after EVERY lunch! I don’t think the design of our bodies can handle that much sugar…unless frequently passing out for after meal naps counts as “handling” it. Instead of dessert, another intern and I are going to leave the table that is set with a plate of warm, gooey, chocolate temptation, and go for a meditative walk through the forest or out to the sea. Good trade-off, I say. 

I’m also going to read Reza Aslan’s, “Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”, a historical perspective of Jesus’ impact on society; My way of becoming intimate with Jesus before the arrival of Holy week and Easter.  


Baby lambs born this morning! We have been checking on the three pregnant ewes constantly since Mother Hildegard assigned us interns the role of sheep midwives, but Sophia decided to have her babies on her own while we were all fast asleep. She did a perfect job. Her two girls were licked clean, nursing, and wobbling around with sprightliness when Noel (one of the interns) found them at 2:30 am.