AS TIME WENT ON I came to know the convent well. How can I describe the peace of this little citadel of goodness -- quiet, ordered, immaculate, with its tiny courtyard garden shaded by two lime trees, placed in the very heart of the great and bustling city. In crossing its threshold one entered a world of brooding and mysterious tranquillity. The chapel was small but of singular beauty, the interior panelled in unpainted wood, the altar of rose marble, surmounted by a large plain crucifix. The candles flickered and shed a soft radiance on the brass doors of the tabernacle and on the white flowers on either side. Against the walls, the Stations of the Cross showed vaguely, and dim, too, were the black figures of the nuns, kneeling in silence, which is felt nowhere so intensely as in a convent church, a stillness which might flood the pure in heart with a delirious ecstasy of calm and joy, but which, at this stage of my life, always pierced me with a stabbing remorse. Then, indeed, I was conscious, although perhaps incompletely, of a lack of purpose in my existence, of a void which no amount of five-guinea fees could fill. I realised that there were certain vital questions and inner promptings which I was evading, throwing conveniently into the discard of the future, and at such moments, filled with self-dissatisfaction, I would swear passionately to reform, a resolution which, unfortunately, once I returned to the diversions of the outside world and the exciting rush of practice, I failed lamentably to carry out.
Despite my lack of virtue, I became friendly with all the good Sisters, who did their best for me by offering the one gift that was theirs to give -- prayer. They were of all nationalities. Mother Cécile