I know next to nothing about Roald Dahl outside of his children’s books, but apparently his daughter Tessa is better known in England as a novelist, socialite, and drug addict with a checkered history. These days, though, she’s making headlines for a different kind of rebellion: as she puts it, “leaving the life of addiction behind and becoming a nun.”
In the recent photo they have her posed with a Rosary in her hand outside a church. But for the past month or so she has been living at the Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut, home of the Benedictine order that she is the process of entering. Helping the Lady Abbess clean the chapel with a mop and pail, making butter, spinning yarn, keeping to a daily schedule of prayer is a far cry from hobnobbing with the rich and famous as she has done for much of her life, but, she says, “It is saving my life.”
It is an extraordinary turnaround, and it is not surprising that some of those who know her are sceptical. After all, her third marriage broke up because she came under the spell of a charismatic female Indian guru. All the same, there is something about the way she speaks in this interview that suggests this woman has found the answer to her lifelong search for inner peace.
‘They want to be sure that I am becoming a nun because I really, really, really love God, and they want me to prove that I can contribute to the abbey, that it isn’t just an escape.
‘Of course it isn’t,’ she adds, citing a moment of divine inspiration. ‘I had an enormous God experience as the nuns sang Vespers.
I felt as if a boulder had been pushed off my heart and it was open to joy.’
“If I wanted to escape,” she says, “I could do coke. But I don’t want to escape. I want redemption.”
Let’s just say, it’s hopeful.
You don’t have to know anything about Dahl herself to be moved by her familiar story of brokenness, despair, hope, and redemption. I hope she finds what she’s looking for at Regina Laudis.