Yesterday, I had the pleasure of entering a place that few people have the opportunity to enter: a Catholic monastery. We visited the the Monastery of Santa Ana in Sevilla. There are currently 17 nuns stationed at this monastery. Last week they had 18, but one, who was 93, passed away on Sunday. Surprisingly, three of the nuns were around my age. I cannot imagine being locked up voluntarily. I spent a summer working at an Exoneration Project, fighting so that people would not be locked up, so it is difficult for me to understand that some people would choose this lifestyle. They call their rooms cells. Ironically, the word “cell” originates from monasteries and not from jails and prisons. We did not enter their rooms, but we were able to see their windows and they truly resembled those in a prison. They are able to call their family once a month and sometimes more often, if someone is under bad health conditions. Their family can also visit them. On the ground floor there are a couple of rooms that are used to host family members. The rooms have two doors. One of the doors leads to the outside world and the back door is so that the nun can enter from their end, no one else can use that entrance.
These women devote their life to prayer and the elaboration of candy and pastries. They never leave the monastery, unless they have to go to the doctor or they have to visit a sick loved one. They start off their day at 6 am and each has a responsibility. Saturdays are cleaning days and Sundays they get to wake up at 7 am, because they have church. Most of the day is spent in silence, they only get two one hour breaks throughout the day, in which they can speak. The candy that they make is especially popular during lent and it allows them to make a living. You may wonder, if they never leave the monastery how can they obtain what is necessary to make the pastries? Well someone serves as their intercessor. They live in the monastery, but they are not a nun. They bring goods in and take care of anything that would require the nun to leave the monastery. I am still trying to figure out how/if they get around sanitation visiting their kitchen, since technically no one is allowed in, but they are selling goods and have to get approval.
In order to purchase goods, you ring a bell and then the “intercessor” allows you into a patio. You can only go during select hours, since they follow a strict routine. You then go up and ring a bell. You then open a door and there is a wheel. The nun from the other side says, “Ave Maria Purissima” and you respond “Conceived without Sin.” You can then ask them to show you their selection of candy. They will show you their selection and then you can choose some candy and pay for it. They tend to be very cheap, too! After buying your candy, you can ask the nun any questions you have. They tend to be very charismatic, nice, and they seem to enjoy the company.