Having learnt at Monte Cassino, the monastery was always a mysterious place to me. We were never allowed to go there or make noise while we were close. The only time I remember going there was when a few of us were chosen to go and help out in the garden. I remember being so excited to harvest some peas for the monks. My favorite monk was and still is Father Barnabas. He just has this aura of peace and tranquility around him. Some of my most favorite conversations on faith and life have been with him. He is one of the wisest people I know. Then there was Father Robert. He was deathly honest and upfront and never minced his words. During the Mugabe era, he would not shy away from reprimanding politicians and this was at a time when people would not dare be seen voicing out their opinions. He would boldly speak his mind during Prize Giving Day, a day when parents would come and celebrate their children’s academic excellence. We had a handful of politicians who would bring their kids to learn at Monte. It was afterall among the top 3 best performing Girls’ Schools countrywide when it came to O level results. When I say top 3, I’m being modest lol. Most times we were number 1 countrywide for excelling with a 100% pass rate.
Religion to me had always seemed so monotonous and stale for me growing up, unless if it had something to do with youth clubs and if it were time to sing and dance to the Diwali beats we would strum on the drums as students to remix the usual “fata murungu beat” for the songs at Shona mass. Ya’ll remember Diwali right. It was lit. We used to love shaking our bums vigorously, waving our hands high in praise. (yes… in church. We were young, what can I say.) That was the most exciting part about church for me. If not the only exciting thing about mass. The rest of it I didn’t really understand or care to understand. I found the silence of mass excruciating and having to sit and stand in one place for 30 minutes seemed like cruel torture. This was the time it would take for our weekday masses. The weekend ones were longer as we would be joined by the teachers and villagers so there would be more activity and sometimes some dance routines that were quite entertaining.
On the other hand, I was desensitized to the nuns because we saw them everyday. We knew they were human, bled like us and had flaws too. So nothing about them made me wonder in awe as I did with the monks. To me, the nuns were my English teacher who made me write spelling corrections numerous times, my Geography teacher who was so strict she would make us write pages and pages and endless pages of notes every Friday and called us bush babies when we were lazy or my cool Science teacher called Sr Pia who never aged at 60, 70, 80 something (we could never really tell what her age was) whose glasses would get a slight tint in the sun as she rode around on her bike wearing her small bucket hat which we called an Oyi Oyi hat back then because those are what those Kwaito stars used to wear. She was tiny and petite and her smile was deeply contagious and borderline naughty. I’m not sure if it was her style that made her seem so or if she really had a tinge of naughty in her. When we would start our Integrated Science lessons she would say, “Veeeeeeeelllllllll (well🤣) good morning everybody, ” and we would chant back, “Good morning Sr Pia” with huge naughty smiles on our faces. My best friend Tafadzwa and I’s favorite past time was goofing around and this included annoying Sr Pia. We would sneak into the lab to steal batteries for our illegal radio. Her lab would always have dead creatures brewing in preservatives and if you were too naughty and she caught you, you could be one of the unlucky ones to be made to skin smelly dead snakes that she used for science.
The monks on the other hand stayed mystical creatures to us. How does one ever desire to live most of their life in silence and solitude, we would wonder. We get the sex thing, nuns vow the same but silence!!! How!!! Double punishment only meant for super humans. So we would peak at the monastery whenever we got the chance to in order to spy on these mystical creatures lol. There was always silence there. Real… pure… palatable silence.
Four years ago, I felt a persistent urge to come to the monastery. I discovered that people could actually visit the place for prayer and or rest. I was excited that this mystical place was finally accessible to me. I believe my first visit carved a different path for me spiritually. I have been going there every year ever since. I could never express my experiences here quite adequately. I say here because I’m there right now. I always fall short of words. When I try to, I feel like I do not do it justice. So it’s one of those few things I have actually never written about publicly until now. It is a piece of me that most do not know about me or find it hard to believe I’m into. There’s so many layers of me I’m yet to show, yet to discover, yet to unfold and allow to grow as I step more into my authentic self more confidently. I will try my best to share this place with you everytime I go. I’m working on putting my current experience into words and I will share more details in my next post. For now, let me meditate on this silence under these big beautiful acacia trees before I say goodbye, once again, to this magical place until next year. I am quite sad to be leaving today but I’m so grateful for all the life it restores in me. As Father B said to me yesterday as I expressed my regret on postponing my trip to see my aunt who had just passed away that morning as I never got to thank her for taking part in raising me, “We should never take life for granted but AS GRANTED.” The difference between the two is gratitude. Living in gratitude as life comes to us makes us take each moment as sacred. We tend to live life fully that way. We never assume or feel entitled to another moment. We treat the current one with utter gratitude and never leave any stone unturned. We tell those we love how much they mean to us and not wait for another time. As granted allows us to live completely each day no matter our circumstances. Even the bad times are gifts if we have faith that our God is ever loving and is with us every step of the way. There’s so much to be grateful for.
Rest in peace gogo Mai Lesedi 🙏