My name is Adele. But the other sisters call me Catherine, so I do not know who I am. My mother was French; my father was German. My father’s family was angry because he married a foolish French woman. After my parents died I was given to a convent and have lived there ever since. I remember the day when I was four years old. My Aunt Matilda pulled me impatiently through the streets and stopped at the nunnery door. She crossly straightened my little brown dress and tied the old shoes that were too big for me, and then a nun opened the door. My aunt at once became grown up and wouldn’t look at me anymore.
“This is an orphan; her name is Catherine. Will you take her and bring her up to be a good girl?”
“Please come in. I will go ask the mother superior.”
I was confused that my aunt lied about my name, but she gave me a sharp glance that made me afraid to protest.
We were led into a hollow-sounding, dark courtyard and made to wait a great while, it seemed to me. My aunt amused herself by rummaging through her small purse and looking at relics of the past stashed in it. She would not allow me the privilege of touching anything, so I wandered around the room and stared at the strange pictures of a woman holding a child, angels, and a man wrapped in sheets floating on clouds. At last another nun came in and spoke to my aunt for a few minutes. My aunt sounded angry and, after shouting a little, became satisfied. As I look back, perhaps she did not shout, but the vastness and emptiness of the room made her voice louder than it really was. My aunt smiled too sweetly at me and walked out. The nun took my hand gently and led me into another place. It was a long hallway, and I was afraid it would never end. We at last reached the last door, and the nun slowly opened it. It was a sort of chapel with candles lining the walls. At the very front of it was a statue of that same woman I saw in the courtyard pictures, smiling down at her baby. The nun paused where we stood.
“This is where we worship God,” she said softly. I didn’t want to speak; the lady with the child seemed to be telling us to be quiet and just look at her. “This is where you will come also, to worship God with us. Do you know who that lady there is? It is the mother of Jesus Christ. He delivered His people from their sins by dying for them. He was perfect. He never sinned, but He bore our sins for us. We now pray to Him and His Father because His Father is now our Father. You used to have a father, didn’t you?”
“But he died. Christ’s Father never died and never will. He is in Heaven, and he listens when we speak to him. Now, enough of that.” She turned around suddenly, as if remembering her real duty. “My name is Sister Clotilde. Let me show you where you are to sleep.”
– From Part One, Chapter 3