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Shoeless nuns


The Discalced Order of Carmelite nuns were barefoot, but not weak by any means. Their postulants, in addition to dressing in long plain black gowns and praying every three hours with the rest of the community, had to work out an hour every day. All that praying meant a lot of sitting, and stillness of that sort wasn’t good for the body.
They looked askance at the nuns in many of the other Orders. Some of them weren’t even 60 years old yet and they were obese, feeble, reduced to using a wheelchair. Worse – the wheelchairs were electric. They didn’t even have to exercise their arms to get around. Just push the knob on the armrest and off they went. A Discalced Carmelite would rather renounce her vows than to be seen in such a state of sloth.
For sloth it was – a deadly sin, a sign of spiritual or emotional apathy and being physically and emotionally inactive. It was a sin because it abused the gifts of God. It was what Jesus was speaking about when he told the parable of the talents. You must take what you are given and make more of it, just like with the loaves and fishes miracle. They took seriously the adage that idle hands are the devil’s playground. Inactivity invited the Accuser into the very core of the person, into the holy shrine of the soul.
The demon of sloth loved those lazy nuns especially, because he could slowly, over years, convince them to ease up on their prayers or service. He grew stronger with every forgotten prayer and every abandoned act of kindness. It would start with them thinking they could catch up later, but later never came. Only discipline kept the demon at bay. Discipline makes disciples after all. Sure, you were chosen, but you also have to choose the holy life every day, sometimes every minute. It didn’t just happen.
The Carmelites never really slept. There were certainly times of rest, between prayers and work, but not many. The prayers were every three hours, and all the sisters were required to be present. Only being laid up in the infirmary was an excuse to skip. Many postulants left after just a couple of weeks of this unusual schedule, either exhausted or insane. Those who lasted soon learned what army recruits did – sleep when you can, or learn to adapt to the changed mental state that results from too little rest. Some older nuns suspected that was the goal of the frequent prayer schedule. They achieved communion with God alright – it was just not the way that was expected.
Some kept their new revelations to themselves, out of concern for being asked to leave. The Order might not take kindly to sisters with potential mental health issues. Were they really hearing from God, or was it all in their heads? Some shared their revelations only with their confessors. Some could not contain themselves, the onslaught of visions and new understanding pouring forth like water over the dam after a flood.
Those who spoke up learned that The Order was kinder than many others, and examined every revelation with respect, measuring it against scripture, tradition, and reason, to see if it was valid. They were open to the idea that God still spoke to his people.

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