by Michele Latham
We called it Thursday Class. And although it was meant for the children, I cherished every minute.
My family was fortunate to live just a few miles from a women’s monastery here in the Ozarks. A handful of Orthodox nuns (and their many helpers) had carved out a beautiful skete in the middle of the woods. They graciously offered to host the children on Thursdays for a short class and prayers. Many times we stayed after class and the children helped to tend the chickens, guineas, and goats that lived on the place. The monastery grounds were so enticing for the children. There were trails through the woods and building projects in progress everywhere. The kids clamored to be of help and the nuns were so patient, supervising their work. One day as my six-year-old was struggling to pull a wagon full of rocks from a garden spot, I was horrified when he looked over his shoulder at Mother Thecla and called out, “Hey, can you push?” I was unfamiliar with monastery etiquette and was walking on egg shells, hoping the children and I behaved properly. I shouldn’t have worried, though, because I saw the smile on her face as she bent to help with the wagon. It was such a blessed time and I loved the sweet way in which the sisters taught us all about God and the Church.
One Thursday, as we were driving through our small town on route to the monastery, my son searched the empty yards of the houses we passed. “Where are all the kids?” he shouted. Being the youngest of five children, he often felt the need to shout. When he didn’t get a quick reply, he shouted the question again and then supplied his own answer, “Where are all the kids? Oh, I know! They’re at their nun’s!” I smiled at the thought that his 4-year old mind assumed all children had their own nuns to visit.
In reality, a lot of Americans don’t know anything about the pious monastics spending their days in prayer. And there are many Orthodox Christians who don’t live near a monastery or don’t have the means to make a pilgrimage. They never get the chance to have a conversation or sing a Troparion with these saintly folks. We were truly blessed. And we are blessed still, because although that monastery moved to Kansas City years ago, another one is now located 30 miles away in the other direction.
As for the children, they are all practically grown and are scattered around the country, working, going to school, starting their adult lives. I’m so thankful for those beautiful days spent at the monastery. I still pray for “our” nuns although I’ve lost contact with many of them .We are bound by the holy spirit and I feel comforted to know that they are still praying for the children of that long-ago Thursday Class.