This is Sister's all-time favorite movie; she has seen it half a dozen times and can sing the songs and even recite some of the dialogue. Her favorite part is when Mother Superior challenges Maria to consider that maybe she is being called to a vocation outside the religious life.
It's interesting watching this movie with a nun, especially when Maria decides to leave the Abbey. While Sister and I have had many heart-to-heart conversations, this scene in the movie makes me wonder if she ever questioned her decision to join a religious order; in many ways, I am curious if she ever had any doubts about God's call.
So, I ask her.
And curled up on the couch in front of the roaring fire, she tells me a story ...
She is in her third year at the convent -- a year before taking her final vows --when she and 18 other postulants decide to leave. They make no announcement and give no notice. They are tired of working, tired of studying -- tired of everything, really -- and they just walk away.
"Just like that? You walked away?" I asked.
"Just like that," she said. "We got up in the morning and walked away. We told no one."
All 18 return to their separate villages. All 18 have no more contact with one another.
Once she returns home, Sister tells her parents the convent is on break. She doesn't tell them what happened, and she even hides any correspondence that arrives from her Mother Superior.
Days go by.
"Did you talk to any of the others who left?" I want to know.
"No one," she says. "But, oh, how I struggled ... I didn't know what to do."
Finally, after days and days of praying, at the end of the month she packs her bags, says goodbye to her family, and returns to the convent.
And a miracle takes place.
Amazingly, on the very same day she arrives, slowly, and all throughout the day, the other 17 return, too.
One at a time, from different villages, they all come back.
I look at Sister, astounded.
"We all came back on the same day," she says, smiling and nodding. "All 18 of us. We had been very foolish, but God showed us -- each in a different way -- that we needed to come back."
Next December Sister graduates and will return to Tanzania. She will return to hard work, taking what she has learned here and adapting that knowledge to address the needs of her community. She will battle ignorance, prejudice, and bouts of malaria.
And yet, on this day after Christmas with the snow falling gently outside, I know Sister's story is just as hopeful and happy as the movie we are watching. There is a deep sense of peace -- which no obstacle can break -- that comes with following God's will, and Sister knows she is doing what she had been called to do.
No matter what the future holds she has found her peace and, for her, faith is as simple as that.