My photojournalism for the Diocese of Knoxville has allowed me to meet and become friends with some very unique people. Among them are the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, and last Sunday I visited their monastery, Cor Jesu (Heart of Jesus), in New Market.
For the non-Catholic, these women are nuns, meaning they lead a contemplative life of prayer in a cloister, versus a religious sister who belongs to an order that has a special interaction with the public, such as providing health care services. However, popular usage has the term "nun" used for both types, and both are religious women who have consecrated themselves to Jesus.
For privacy reasons, I am only showing a few photos, since the Handmaids live within a papal enclosure and the general public is not allowed to enter their property. Their charism, that is, their main focus, is perpetual adoration before the Eucharist, praying for priests. I urge you to visit their website, www.nunsforpriests.org, to learn more about them. And, if you are a big Amazon Prime user as my family is, you can use Amazon's Smile program to contribute to them.
By the way, if you have in your mind that these are quiet, joyless women who spend their days sternly roaming the grounds, praying . . . well, you have the praying part down. Otherwise, you would be surprised - they are a group of some of the happiest women I have ever met. And their backgrounds will surprise you - talk to one who was in 'Nam, talk to another who was a rancher, and talk to yet another who was in the Air Force working with satellites. They defy any misconception that only holy little girls grow up to be holy nuns.
They have invited me to come up to do some night photography this summer and I will take them up on that, as well as get more images when the trees have their foliage. In fact, I would like to photograph the monastery grounds during different times of the year, to see if I can capture its serenity.
And if you're a Catholic priest or seminarian - help support them. After all, they are there, 24/7, before the Holy Eucharist specifically for you. Tell your parish about them. Oh, and if you need time away, Father . . . they have a hermitage on the grounds for visiting priests. A few days away in the beauty of East Tennessee for reflection and prayer might be good for what ails you, you know?