Thursday, July 21, 2011

Retreat Week


Our community asks each sister make at least a week of retreat once a year. To support the sisters in doing this, two conference retreats are held each year at the monastery. This week Br. Benet from Blue Cloud Abbey is guiding us through a retreat based on the stories of Benedict from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. If you know of Br. Benet, these ancient tales are supplemented with those he has gathered from his own con-friars, other Benedictine's and religious, family, and friends...the stories all center around a particular teaching or idea for each conference.

Outside of the conferences, I am enjoying the freedom to sit in the silence, read from the Dialogues, pray, and be with the Lord. Unfortunately, the heat wave has created temperatures of over 110 degrees (with humidity) and praying outside has become close to impossible (I wilt easily). So I have found a variety of quiet places about the monastery...of course I use my cell (monastic bedroom) but no pictures of that : )

Up in our choir loft of Bishop Martin Marty Chapel, there is a lattice wall of windows depicting the various works and prayers of our sisters. I love to sit on the cool floor and, leaning into the sandstone walls, stare up at our history in glass. These two remind my of my own ministry to teaching and studying. Each time I go up to the loft, I notice something new in this stained is an awesome place for quiet reflection on our lives here in the Dakotas.

This side chapel to Our Lady of Einsiedeln is also our chapel for the Reserved Sacrament. Opposite this altar is a series of stained glass windows dedicated to Mary; usually the lights aren't on (except for the tabernacle candle), and the colors from her window spill down on any sister who is sitting in the pews before her. The quiet of this monument to our Swiss heritage is occasionally broken as a sister comes into chapel, bows, and continues on her way into the church. Those small breaks in the solitude are a loving reminder of why I'm here.

The Peace Chapel, aka the lower chapel or student chapel, has two more of my favorite places to pray on these hot summer days. This niche was once used for storage! The gate is original so I have no idea what it was before that! Now, it holds an icon of Mary of the Disappeared, the Crucifix with a red drape, and a chair with prie dieu. It is a place to consider the wider world and pray for the needs of those in sorrow.

The Peace Chapel's space for the Reservation of the Sacrament is designed for quiet reflection and contemplation. The stained glass windows to the right are lightly colored so that the focus of those who pray here is on the Christ present among us in the Sacrament, Community (the Icon of the Blessed Virgin), and Scripture. During the retreat, many of my afternoons have been spent in quiet prayer here in the cool of the reservation chapel. The only sounds that drift down here are the bells chiming the hours, the soft whisper of a sister praying the stations in the body of the church, and the gentle rattle of my own is wonderful place to pray.


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Commonplace Divine


Today is another commonplace Friday. One of many summer days that have been slipping away while I'm home at the monastery. Nothing extraordinary, nothing amazing, but it is in these average days that Benedict calls us to make the commonplace a taste of the divine, and I will miss it a great deal when I return to teaching away from the monastery in the fall.

7AM Lauds followed by the Eucharist is celebrated in common. The same sisters sit in nearly the same spots arriving nearly at the same predictable times every morning. We settle into our places in the Peace Chapel; a collection of commonplace women who are far from common when seen in the eyes of the divine. Each of us bringing the prayers of our heart, the community, and those we love to the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist. Each of us adding our voices (tired, bright, sharp, flat, or shinning) to the musical lilt of our chant. Each of us listening for the voice of God and the call of Christ during the silent lulls between Psalms.

8AM Breakfast for those who eat after Mass and the break of our morning silence. A very common act in the meal, but it is also a time to share.
We share the plans for our day, the hopes of what it might be...
in this it can become a time of the divine, seeing Christ work in one another.

My work of the morning was simply reading and reviewing my plans for teaching this fall. This varies between the tedious and the inspired depending on the day and topic. Today was somewhere in between. Those texts can be the divine when I remind myself it is reaching out to support the next generation of those who believe, blessing our future together.

Noon Prayer is celebrated after lunch in our small groups. This little hour is only ten minutes long at the most. A Psalm or two, a short reading, a period of silence, and the Lord's Prayer to close. A reminder of God's presence throughout our day.

My afternoon work was chapel cleaning with two other sisters. Sweeping the marbled floor in aisles and between pews, shinning a bit of brass, and some dusting. Repeating the same work that has been done on a weekly basis for over 50 years. Repeating the same work that has been done by postulants, novices, and student sisters from foreign lands. This quiet manual labor is a silent gift of love in caring for our sisters and our monastic home of worship. While moving up and down the rows of pews, I pray for those who have called for our support, family, friends, and my sisters too. Cleaning is commonplace work, and it seems mundane until you begin thinking of all those who came before and who will come after. This little revelation occurred while I was on a step stool reaching the high places of Our Lady of Einsiedeln's side altar with my duster. Hmmm.

Soon it will be time for Vespers and supper. Our sisters will file into chapel following a similar pattern to Lauds, our commonplace gathering of Love. In the repetition of the horarium (schedule) and dailiness of our lives we are called to see the divine shaping and molding us slowly, deliberately...from the common to the divine image. How do you see the commonplace shaping you?


Friday, July 1, 2011

The Feast of the Sacred Heart

Happy Feast Day!

Today we celebrated our Patronal Feast at Sacred Heart Monastery. My favorite part of these times of festive Liturgy of the Hours is our shared prayer dedicating the community to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the end of Vespers this evening. It's a powerful reminder of our call to carry the love of the Sacred Heart to the world. The readings at Mass, the music, and the psalmody all kept bringing me back to the love God has for us and the love Christ embodied for us in the world. But the key line from my Lectio was simply "...learn from me..."

Ah Lord, a simple request with such challenges for a sister who still struggles with the vow of Obedience. I do strive to be open to learning from my sisters, co-workers, and students; however, to call to learn from Christ involves an the greater risk of letting go of my own expectations of learning and being open to the lessons of life to which He wishes to lead me. When I am learning from other, I still have an element of control (ahem, still letting go of that one) ... learning from Christ is not simply letting go of control; it is giving it back to Him whom I love and live for.


ps...The icon is The Sacred Heart as written by Sr. Mary Charles, a beautiful symbol of our community.