Spiritual Exercise

2007.Dec.21 Friday · 1 comment

in Life

 He who interrupts the course of his spiritual exercises and prayer is like a man who allows a bird to escape from his hand; he can hardly catch it again.”

– St. John of the Cross, Christian mystic

Buenos Aires – I’m a day or two behind Robert at Line of Sight in writing up our cultural adventure this past weekend. We joined a tour of the Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales, a currently operating convent in the heart of Constitución. The tour is offered the third Sunday of each month, and we were regularly assured that we were amongst the privileged few to have ever visited the convent… well, no one was turned away, there were probably about 60 of us on the tour, they do it once a month and have for years… you do the math. The 6 pesos entrance fee which is stated as voluntary is apparently only as voluntary as their giving you an entrance ticket, i.e., you get a ticket in exchange for your fee. I didn’t see anyone getting a ticket without anteing up the cost. There are also a couple of opportunities to spend a bit more – the central plaza has a gift table setup, along with food and drink for sale, and on the way out, fresh bread is offered for sale.

I don’t know that I have a lot to add to what Robert said, perhaps some more photos. We were informed upfront that photography was only permitted in the patios, not indoors, as it would apparently upset the convent sisters, not that we saw many of them on our tour. I being the irreligious rebel that I am, kept my camera in hand throughout, quietly snapping away from hip level, so there are a few strange angles (and alot of shots that simply didn’t come out), whereas he was carrying a full sized camera and couldn’t really get away with it. Oh the peril I put my soul in for your edification…

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
The building takes up a city block, built around a series of nine patios – a large central one, and eight smaller ones. It’s actually surprising how much beautiful greenery and detail there is inside, especially given how nondescript the exterior is. Not quite true, it’s actually quite descript… it’s ugly on the outside, with tons of graffiti and little maintenance – I guess, perhaps, it’s a way of hiding the treasures that are inside…

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
We began in a light filled patio, with a guide who not only explained everything in detail, but who continually quizzed her audience on their knowledge of dates, spiritual leaders, and catechism. What she would have done had she known there was a Jew amongst her flock…

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
The convent sisters stay in “cells”, which are ostensibly much like this one – we didn’t have access to the parts of the convent where they live, not surprisingly. However, there are a series of cells offered up to the public for a mere 45 pesos a day, room and board inclusive, for those who want to get away to meditate, reflect, or just hang out.

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
Part of the secrecy is probably the incredible art collection. There’s no question they have a ton of it, lining every passageway. And much of it is from the early 1800s when the convent was in its heyday.

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
There are, of course, numerous statues to that Jewish guy who started this whole thing…

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
…and his mom.

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
The main patio has an old well, some nice bells, lots of lovely plants, and the gift “shop”…. We sampled a torta frita, a fried flatbread that was pretty dense and tasteless. Luckily the bread at the end of the tour that’s available for sale is far better tasting.

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
One of the last patios to be visited is just completely dense with old trees and beautiful walkways – probably my favorite of the tour.

Santa Casa de Ejercicios Espirituales
And, the main kitchen, where bread baking takes place, at least on days when there are visitors – it wasn’t clear if this was the kitchen used by the sisters on a daily basis, it didn’t really look like it, but it’s hard to say. By pure chance, one of them walked through as I was snapping this photo (from the last patio) – but since I wasn’t using a flash, she became a blur of motion that I kind of thought looked cool.


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