Saturday, 2 November 2013

All Souls Day: Charisma by Orania Papazoglou

published 1992   Part 2 Chapter 3






What was coming out in her was something old enough to be ancient, the routine of convent life before the changes of Vatican II had made themselves felt. Her order had been laggard in that respect. While all the other nuns in the archdiocese of Hartford were already experimenting with lay dress and lunches at McDonald’s, Susan had still been wearing a wimple, five layers of underwear and a veil that reached down her back to her knees. All that had lasted well into the 1970s, so that Susan had spent her first five years after tertiary profession looking – as a man who stopped her on the street had once put it – like a ‘real nun’. If there was anything she remembered from that period, rather than simply had fused into her bones, it was the older people who would stop her, their eyes pleading and desperate, anxious and afraid of hope. They all had the same question, which was not really the question they wanted to ask at all. They wanted to know if they would get their Church back.



observations: Researching an entry back in April of last year, we thought we needed to read the book about the serial killer of ex-nuns. And this is it – Jane Haddam wrote the previous nun book, this is her under a different name. She does like a religious theme in her books (of which there are many) and she writes well about religion. Not many murder stories contain detailed discussions on the effect of Vatican II on the worldwide Catholic community, but she has written more than one.

Nuns in the USA are in a certain amount of turmoil at the moment, as outlined in the previous entry (and you can find out more here), and their future is uncertain. What they wear has been the subject of endless discussion, with many lay Catholics regretting the loss of the distinctive habits – although the habits when introduced were usually intended as merely a simple form of everyday dress. Since then, just by staying unchanged, they had moved further and further away from everyone else, but that was not the original intention.

The book is an excellent and very sad thriller, largely about the dreadful things that can happen to lost and abducted children. Many such books – while of course paying lip service to how bad it is – have a queasy relish in describing what goes on. This book is remarkably free from that, and no-one could doubt the outrage of the writer.

Links on the blog: There have been several previous nun entries– the one mentioned above by the same writer, the roller-skating male nuns in Armistead Maupin’s Halloween San Francisco, the nuns who became possessed by the Devils of Loudon, and a nun detective here and here

The picture is from the Dutch National Archive (as was a previous nun picture) and is of a nun visiting a graveyard on All Soul’s Day, which is today.

Last year's All Souls entry featured a Mexican skeleton and the Day of the Dead celebrations.

10 comments:

  1. I am so glad to see this post about Charisma and Orania Papazoglou. I have read at least 20 of the Gregor Demarkian series written as Jane Haddam, and have considered the ones featuring nuns to be favorites in the series. I was unsure what I would think of her earlier books. I have this one on the Kindle and another in paperback. I am glad you liked it; maybe I can get it read in 2014.

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    1. Yes we agree about Jane H, and about Gregor D, and I too always like books with nuns...

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    2. One of my aunts is a nun and she likes reading...I always like nuns with books....ok I made that second bit up, she's always too busy to read. This does sound good - but it's missed my cut-off point.

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    3. Aunts as nuns are surprisingly popular today- see Bill's comment below. In fact this book was one I could easily see you enjoying Col - but a cut-off is a cut-off....

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  2. I have known lots of Sisters, including great aunts, through my life. The habit now seems more appropriate for a cloistered community with regular lay clothing for those who work in public.

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    1. Yes that's a good point Bill. And the truth is, numbers of postulants are so low these days that talking about their clothes seems a bit irrelevant.

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  3. I've known a few decent nun's in my time too, Moira but convents are shutting everywhere. When I lived in Greece there was an active community of US sisters who seemed really dynamic but they are few and far between.

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    1. I think American nuns are different - it's a generalization, but I think there's some truth in it. They had such an important role in education and health in the USA, I think it had a long-term effect.

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  4. Moira - One of the things this sort of novel brings up is the fascinating conflict between the traditions of religion - which many people find comforting and a source of solace - and the needs of an evolving society. On the one hand one would say the Church needs to evolve with the times. On the other, at what point is the there too much change? It's not an easy question and the nun's habit reflects that I think.

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    1. Thanks so much for re-posting Margot, I very much appreciate it. I think you've summed up the arguments really well - both sides sound convincing.

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