Down the coast from my house sits Villa Maria Del Mar

About three blocks down the coast from my house sits Villa Maria Del Mar, a stately three-story wooden hotel first built in the 1890s to accommodate mostly Catholic vacationers seeking a retreat-like atmosphere where one’s spirit, faith, and health could be restored. Monies earned originally went to a Catholic resident home in San Francisco for single, working women.
The spacious grounds have always been operated by a staff of nuns who reverently adhered to a ministry of hospitality. When Jennie and I lived on nearby Corcoran Avenue in the early eighties, we’d often see the nuns taking walks in full habits, their floppy black-and-white head coverings waving dramatically in the breeze. It brought back images of Sally Field in the sitcom, “The Flying Nun.”
Currently, the Villa is being run by the Sisters of the Holy Names, a Catholic order that continues the tradition of offering rest and recuperation for travelers and people wanting to take a break from the fast-paced modern world.

We’re all striving to get better.

Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

Over the last few years, we have become friends with two of the nuns who regularly take walks in our neighborhood and admire the gardens that we attend. We’re always offering veggies to the pair—cabbages, squash, artichokes, lettuce, kale, peas, green beans, and much more. Needless to say, they are appreciative of the goodies and continually express their thanks.
The other day, completely out of the blue, the head nun said she had obtained a copy of my novel, Five Hundred Moons, and was reading it. When she finished it, she planned on loaning the book to the other Sisters to read. Then, she said, they would invite Jennie and me over for dinner and a book talk, if I would be so kind to speak.
I replied that we would love to join them, but warned her that my book was not exactly favorable to the Franciscans and Father Serra. Her response was direct, yet cheerful. “The Church has been guilty of many things in the past and knowing those prior faults provides us with important lessons for today. We’re all striving to get better.”
If someone said I’d someday be entertaining a roomful of Catholic nuns regarding my novel, I’d say they were crazy. But crazier things do happen. I’m looking forward to our gathering, and I anticipate fielding some very interesting and provocative comments and questions; and also a great meal. I hear they are fabulous cooks!

Photos by Buzz Anderson

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