My life there and afterwards

A lesson on how to use religiosity to keep people in line.

Because we liked to think of ourselves as a monastic order like the Benedictines, we all sat in what was called Chapter Order when we were at Chant services, or at Eucharist. Chapter Order was figured out by when you took your vows. There were different levels of vows, so they worked out a system. Being high up in Chapter Order meant you were closer to the front in processions, and sat up in the choir stalls in church. Status. It meant you had been there the longest and were really very very committed to the life.

It was also used as a punishment. You could be told to sit out of Chapter Order for spiritual or supposedly physical reasons. One sister I knew had to start using a cane. She could still get up the 3 stairs just fine, but the leader told us that she was “slowing down the procession and making it look awkward”, so she was told to sit in the back of the lowest section, behind the novices.

There was another sister, also, who did not need to use a cane, but for some “spiritual” reason was told to also sit behind the novices. Both of them felt humiliated by this. It made the rest of us toe the line out of fear, knowing that we also could be humiliated for any infraction. Anyone not sitting in their Chapter Order was known to be on discipline.


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