Visitation Monastery

August 12, 2013


I’ve always wanted to go behind the large stone walls to see what was hidden far beyond the old oak trees, and I finally did it. I decided to be adventurous and stopped at The Visitation Monastery in Mobile, and I’m so glad I did.
Built in 1832-33, the Visitation Monastery is home for the Visitation order of nuns who operate a retreat house for groups or individuals participating in workshops or times of quiet reflection.
Once used as a school for girls, the grounds now contain the retreat center, a beautiful sanctuary, and a gift shop. In 1957, the sisters established a candy kitchen and began making their famous Heavenly Hash, which quickly became a local favorite.
The chocolate and marshmallow creation is  . . . divine.
The monastery is also the distribution center for breads used in communion by churches, both Catholic and Protestant, throughout the Gulf Coast area.
The architecture is beautiful and from an era where fine workmanship was a true art.
Upon entering the Visitation Shop, I was a bit surprised to run smack into five nuns dressed in full habits. I’m talking about, “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria” habits.
My protestant naivety led me to believe all nuns had changed to the less formal plain skirts and blouses,  or even pants. But, there they were, as beautiful and formal as ever.
 They looked pretty close to this.
I wish I would have been brave enough to ask permission to take their photograph. They seemed so nice, I’m sure they would have said “yes,” but I chickened out.
Somewhere in the back of my mind was the time I was a little girl and pointed to a nun and yelled out, “Batman!” My Mother said the nun just laughed, but I’ve always been cautious since then.
But shopping is an ecumenical activity, so I knew just what to do and got busy in the gift shop.
The infant and children’s section of the shop was beautifully arranged and so sweet.
Starfish embroidered hand towels were so pretty and had great prices! The shop also offered a few antiques, fine linens, religious items and of course, the popular Heavenly Hash.
I was told it was fine to enter the sanctuary and take a few photos. It was predictably ornate and beautiful. You could tell there had been many, many years of beautiful worship within the walls.
Old brick pavers lining the driving areas were glassy smooth from years of use.
And here’s a bit of interesting information, Sister Michele Marie Hauser,
who took her vows as a Sister of Visitation in 2006, previously spent 16 years
as an attorney for the state of Texas.
This stately three story structure is the retreat center.
It truly was a heavenly visit.

The Visitation Monastery always welcomes guests. To find directions and read more, click here. 

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