We Sisters cross the courtyard from the monastery to the church at least 14 times a day back and forth for 5 Offices, Rosary or Mass. In the days of the Beguines, the courtyard held sheep, children played, and the Beguines in the homes circling the courtyard shared in the quiet atmosphere of holy, reverent lives centered on God. The courtyard is still a wonderful place with huge, majestic trees in which and under which birds, pigeons, cats and in the spring ducks frolic and search for food at every hour of the day. It is like a new film to watch every day at whatever hour one is crossing from the monastery to the church whether it is seven a.m. in the morning for Lauds or 8:30 p.m. at night after Compline. It is awesome as my students say!!
This week has seen some very unusually hot weather here in Belgium and a cat has caught my attention. Usually, the cat can be seen curled up in a ball, as cats do, under a tree sleeping –not this week — he is stretched out all feet and paws spread eagle sacked out in the heat. The pigeons come in pairs to hunt their breakfast and the immense blackbirds come in flocks and are not too scared so you can talk to them or maybe at them is more accurate. I feel like St Francis! The pigeons are more wary and take flight at my approach on the path.
Sometimes I just stand at the monastery door when I think no one is looking and take in the quiet and stillness especially in the mornings before the day’s activities begin. At the midday, the courtyard is filled with tourists in groups and singly. On Saturdays, the young seem to think the courtyard is a park and plunk down in the middle against the trees despite the signs that clearly indicate to the contrary and walking on the paths is what is intended. I can hardly blame them.
If the courtyard could talk, it could tell of beautiful flowered Holy Sacrament processions with banners and black habited nuns, flowers on every door of old Beguinnage homes around the cobblestoned courtyard, of famous kings and queens and aristocracy following the lace bedecked priests. These trees and this courtyard have witnessed a lot of religious history, love and fervor. What stories they could tell! I can hear the stories, the songs, the chants; they are in the ground of the courtyard. They call to my heart. Amen and Amen.