Persona history, Mairi Jean

[Edited AS47 (2012): Mairi Jean has left the Order of St Verena since writing the letter below and is no longer known as “Sister” Mairi Jean.]

I was born Jean Craig in the year of Our Lord 1540. I grew up in the little town of Wick on the coast of Scotland, north enough that the sun barely sets in summer and the Northern Lights are well known. My father is a herring fisherman, who has stoutly refused to take part in any of the smuggling that I am sad to say is rife in these parts. My mother does a little bit of weaving to bring some money into the house, but mostly she has her hands full with her bairns. It was when I was but a wee lass that our good Queen Mary took the throne. Her stand against Protestantism inspired a lot of young people in Scotland, and it was due to her inspiration that I took my vows.

An abbey had been founded on the slopes above Wick, about 50 years before my birth, by Lady Sinclair, whose husband owned the land. She was greatly interested in what were considered the unladylike pursuits of Science, travel, and suchlike, and as a result, the abbey is dedicated to the saint Albert the Great, or Albertus Magnus, a man of great education and scientific endeavour. In her readings of religious manuscripts, Lady Sinclair was much taken with the tales of Saint Verena who lived in the third century. Thus I came to take vows into the Order of Saint Verena in the Abbey of Saint Albert.

Of course, since St. Verena lived so long before the founding of the first official order, and it was the instruction of Lady Sinclair on her deathbed that we wear the habit of the order closest to ours, there is some confusion as to how our order should operate. We received the permission of the Pope, Paul II, to open a school and a small hospital, but he left the choosing of the habit up to us. We have a group of Sisters who spend all their leisure time researching the matter and trying to determine in which order St. Verena would have been happiest. Currently the consensus is Carthusian as she lived a hermit-like life in a cave for some time. There was a brief period during which we adopted the modern (*) Italian Benedictine habit, as St. Verena was Italian herself, but that was considered to be a bad idea. Some recent research has shown that she wore burlap, and we are contemplating wearing the habit of the Poor Clares. The practices of the Poor Clares fit us better than those of the Carthusians, as we are not a very enclosed order, teaching as we do.

The Abbess is frowning at me as I write this, as I am supposed to be illuminating a hymn book, but when requested by the Chronicler of the Shire of Adamestor to write a short autobiography, I felt that the matter could not wait. I recently travelled there (a long and arduous journey, as you can be sure), to see about establishing a chapter of our order there, and no request from my good friends there can be denied.

May peace reside in your home and your heart.

(*) i.e. late sixteenth century