All the monastic preparations in the world cannot thwart the path of nature in South Dakota! The sisters arrange for Christmas celebrations and services to be open to the public who joins us, we hope to create a schedule that also allows our employees time to be home with their family and loved ones, and many sisters either invite their families to join us for Christmas or visit their family over the Christmas season...then the blizzard creeped in starting on Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday began with some light drizzling rain and sleet. The weather folk recommended getting to your destinations by late afternoon because the roads would be so slick. This was not unusual for December and while the weather channel seemed a bit excited, we assumed it would all blow over. Thursday dawned with more snow and high winds. Neither of these let up throughout the day, soon the swirling snow began to create the most beautiful drifts in the two inner courtyards at the Monastery. We appreciated the power of the storm, but now began to wonder when it would blow itself out. A usual South Dakota blizzard lasts a day, maybe two at the most. Friday morning I met some of our staff at breakfast! Many of the employees had stayed overnight in our guest rooms and retreat rooms! The weather was too treacherous to try to drive home, and if they had, there would have been no way to come back to work the next day. The wind continued to eddy around the Monastery at gusts between 30 to 40 miles per hour! Wind doesn't stop when it hits a brick wall at that speed, it merely turns direction. Now the drifts in the courtyards were growing by leaps and bounds. The smaller courtyard had snow past the first floor windows and the larger courtyard's drift wasn't far behind! Saturday morning dawned with still more snow and wind. The weather folk predict that the wind will slowly
die away today and the snow should stop for a bit, but now we will
believe it when we see it.
For three and half days, the Christmas blizzard has buffeted and blown the state of South Dakota to a stand still. It may be hard to understand for those who have never experienced such a storm, but the wind and snow were so thick that you couldn't have seen more than a few feet ahead of yourself at times, and snow blown this hard creates drifts that are as solid as rock. The pictures I've added today are from the Kelo Land news site, two Yankton residents had posted the pictures one from the north side of town and the other from within the city...they amaze me!
Back to Christmas!
I have never realized how grateful I should be that our Monastery is city on a hill. Our home contains our bedrooms, the kitchen and dinning areas, exercise and recreation space, library and computer access, and most importantly our Chapel and prayer space. As the blizzard enveloped the world around us in a white blurr, we were able to continue our Christmas prayer.
Christmas Eve Vespers began with Statio (solemn procession) into Bishop Marty Chapel. As Sr. Organist played "Silent Night" we processed two by two into the candle lit Chapel all fitted out in gold and white for Christmas. It was a beautiful way to begin our celebrations. The next morning we realized that our preparations for Christmas Day Mass were, well, not needed...the usual congregation from the surrounding area could not make it out of their homes! So, we celebrated the Christ Child as a community, praying for those stranded by the cold and snow.
Christmas Day was also a time for family, fun, and food (of course). There was a break after brunch to allow for individual plans, I napped, and then we gathered for a Christmas party. All the community came together for cookies and coffee, carols, and laughter. We received a gift from the community and a few gifts from the generous parishioners at St. Mary Church. It was wonderful. The blizzard had kept everyone in and there were more sisters home for the extended Christmas celebrations than anyone had planned--we were all home for Christmas. That night we finished our Christmas Day with a wonderful meal...steak, wine, and all the fixin's. The sisters lingered over supper telling stories and laughing together. I was on dish duty with Srs. Julie and Paulette, we decided sing as we worked our way through the mountain of supper dishes. Christmas Carols and holiday songs from our childhoods rang merrily off the tiled walls of the dish room.
I feel so blessed to have been Home for Christmas.