The pastor from the Hot Springs Methodist church recommended that we visit the Saint Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, AR. We did and we went on New Year’s Day. We called ahead to Sister Kimberly to request a private tour. Don and I decided to go early and go to mass. For some reason, we thought the church was separate from the monastery and drove around the monastery and the school and did not find the church. Then we thought that the church might be in the monastery, which it was. I thought most of the people in the church, which were mostly women, were locals…..buzzer moment here, wrong again. They were all the nuns from the monastery.
When you think of a nun, you think of the habits they wear. Apparently, they are no longer required to wear such things. As long as they are modest, they can wear what they want. The nuns can even wear make-up and color their hair. I have to say that the mass was lovely and the church was beyond words. The architecture was modern and positive for women, but you can see their Bavarian roots in the artwork, the paintings and so much more. The monastery is huge and unique. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas. The calm you feel when you walk in is lovely.
Sister Kimberly asked us to come for breakfast and then gave us the grand tour. Those ladies can cook. We were well received and I so enjoyed talking to the nuns. They are light hearted, friendly, well educated (most hold jobs of teaching, nurse practitioner, etc.), and love to laugh. There is so much history at the monastery and too much to put into writing, but I will say that some of the nuns had talents that were certainly God given. When you see the paintings, the old robes and so much more you realize that some of the nuns were not educated in these arts, yet their artwork almost seems to belong in a museum. Unbelievable and just wow!
Sister Kimberly asked that we come back for dinner, which we agreed to, but I wanted to spend some quality time in the church. I wanted to reflect, pray and just breathe. I have to say that I felt a huge burden lifted off my back and I felt happy. We left for lunch to walk the Fort Smith National Historic Site. It certainly does not compare to Gettysburg, but I think we all forget that the civil war was struggled and suffered in many states, including Arkansas. The graveyard is always the hardest to visit, but the most memorable to see. You walk past people from history that you read about, but really know nothing about. Books only tell you a certain side of who these people were. The hanging judge was one of them. Every person who came before him had either murdered someone or raped someone. Per the laws at the time, they had to hang which they all did. He was a wonderful family man and served his country well. It was sad that his nickname was the hanging judge, but such is history.
We headed back to the monastery to eat dinner and to get ready for our leave the next day to Oklahoma City, OK. We arrived to the offer of spirits, a lively young violinist and the enjoyment of the sisters. I never knew that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day provided good fortune for the rest of the year. Don was not touching the black-eyed peas, even with the possibility of good fortune. All the nuns prayed for our safe travels and I was so thankful for the food and their comradery.
If you are ever in Fort Smith, AR, please stop in to say hello, get the grand tour and visit with the nuns. They are so much fun and love to have visitors. They are not stuffy and you do not even have to be Catholic to come, but come.