SUSPENDED BY THE THUMBS

And then in a few mornings after this the Mother Superior is taking me back for another initiation. And when I go into the penance chamber this morning, we come from a place up here. And we're going to walk back along like that clear to the back. And you know it's quite a ways back here, and I went - part of it's a tunnel. And then I come out into a room. And I walk through into that room. And when I get way back there I see those candles burning. And I see something else. There's ropes hanging down from the ceiling. And, oh, I'm so scared. I wonder what the ropes are for, and what's she going to do? After these two penances you begin to have a lot of fear in your heart.

And so I can't say anything and I walk back there. And you know I saw the ropes. They're really plain - and what are they doing hanging down from that ceiling? Then she tells me, "You go over there against the wall." About that close from the wall. And I have to stand sideways like this. And she asks me to put up both of my thumbs. And I did. And then she pulled one rope down. And there's a metal band fastened securely. And she fastens that around the joint of my thumb. Then the other one comes down and it fastens around this thumb. And there I am standing there like this facing the wall. And then, you know, she comes over here to the end - there's a... whatever you want to call it, she starts winding. And I start moving. And she's taking me right up in the air. And, you know, when she gets me so just my toes are on the floor - just on my tip-toes - she fastens it. And there I hang. And all the weight of my body is on my thumbs and on my toes. Not a word is said. No one speaks a word. And she walks out of that room and locks the door.

If you know what it means to hear a key locking a door, and know that I'm strung up there like that... you'll never know unless you're a Nun. And when that woman walked out I didn't know how long I'll stay there - how long that woman will leave me there.

And you know, they didn't come to give me food. They brought me no water. And I thought, "Is this it? Am I going to die back here just like this?" And within a few hours... you could imagine. I'm still a human being. My muscles began to scream out with the pain - all that suffering. And that woman let me hang. And no one come near. And what good would it do for me to cry? You can spill every tear in your body. Nobody will hear you. There's no one there to care how many tears you spill.

And so I just hung there. And finally I began, seemingly I felt like I couldn't stand it - I'll surely die if they don't come and get me quickly. And I felt as if I was beginning to swell. I don't know how long went by, and she opened the door one morning and she had something for me to eat. And the water was in a pan. And it was potatoes. And those potatoes were not good to eat. They were in a pan. And there's a shelf over there on the wall that she can adjust to the height of the Nun. And, you know, she pulled it out.

Now, I'm not against the wall. I'm about this far from it. But to get that food... she puts it there, and she said, "This is your food." And she walks out.

Now, how am I going to get it?

She didn't let my hands down. But this is what you learn. And you struggle to get it. I'm hungry. I mean, I'm so thirsty I feel like I'm going mad. And to get it I discovered that this hand goes high and this one will come down a little bit. And that'll keep right on going higher if I lean. I have to reach higher with this one, this one will automatically let down. And to get that water and that food, I mean, I had to get it like the dogs and cats. And I lapped as much of it as I could because I'm so thirsty. And get those potatoes, I tried as hard as I could because I'm so hungry. I mean I'm hungry! And I got as much of it as I could, naturally. But I was hungry.

That's the way she fed me for a while and then she released the bonds on my hands. I hung nine days and nine nights in this position.

And may I say, the time came when I was so swollen here, and naturally I could see myself puffing out here. I felt like my eyes were coming out of my head. I felt like my arms were apart. I could see them right there. They were two or three sizes their normal size. I felt like I was that way all over my body. And I was like a boil. I was in real suffering.

And then on the ninth day she comes in. And she releases the bonds from my hands and my body, and lets me down on the floor. Now I go down and I can't walk. I'll assure you I didn't walk. I didn't walk for a long time. But you know what, there's two little Nuns that carry me out. One gets under my feet and the other under my shoulders. And they carry me in the infirmary, and lay me on a slab of wood. And there they cut the clothing from my body. And let me tell you right now, nobody but God will ever know - I'm covered with vermin and filth. Why? I'm hanging there in my own human filth. There are no toilet facilities. Right behind me is a stool. And they have running water in it, and the lid is down and they have sharp nails driven through that lid. If I break my ropes and fall on that, I would suffer terribly.

And this is the life of a Carmelite - a little Nun behind cloistered doors - after they've already deceived us - disillusioned us and got us back there. Then this is the life that we're living. And these are the things that we're going to have to do. I'll assure you, it isn't anything funny.

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