Sunday, January 15, 2012

Monastic Chapter

This weekend we gathered at the Monastery to pray, discuss, and do a bit of business...Monastic Chapter. The most joyous part of our Chapter was one particular vote. When considering new members, the Rule of Benedict says "If after due reflection she promises to observe everything and to obey every command given her, let her then be received into the community" chapter 58, 14. Our Sr. Jill stood before the whole community to request our permission to celebrate her perpetual profession in our community. She shared a beautiful letter telling of her growth, prayer, and love in our Benedictine community. While listening to her gentle voice, I looked around the room to the faces of our Benedictine family; sisters' faces were shinning in the reflection of Sr. Jill's joy, some grinning ear-to-ear, others tearing up, or remembering this moment from their own request. After she finished sharing, the junior sisters left the room and the chapter then discussed and voted on the junior sister. Later when Sister Junior Director brought Sr. Jill back into the chapter, we greeted her with applause and hugs of joy. The Monastic Chapter had accepted her! We will be celebrating the Perpetual Monastic Profession of Sr. Jill within a few weeks!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

National Vocation Awareness Week


As the Church in America celebrates Vocation Awareness Week, we've been trying to consider different ways of sharing that invitation with our boys here at school. You'd think it would be easy since I teach at an Order school and there are monks and priests all about, but when the focus is high class academics, the students sometimes forget to see the monks who teach them as men of prayer and service, the nun who teaches them as a woman consecrated to prayer and ministry to the Church, and the lay men and women who teach them as husbands, wives, or single folk striving to follow God. As a way of reintroducing the familiar I went to the USCCB sponsored vocation website for some awesome videos, prayers, and other info! We're going to use a variety of these short videos as openers to class or discussion. It has been a bit different to focus on the vocations for men; in my previous teacher life, I would talk vocations to mixed classes or classes of women. However, I do remind them that as friends, brothers, and dads, they will have a responsibility to support the women in their lives.

One interesting discuss popped up after yesterday's video.
"So, Sister, what would you call the perks of being a sister? And you can't use all that churchy stuff," one junior asked. Before answering, I asked him what he meant by perks.
"You know, what do you get! You got a car, phone, lap top...what else do you get?"
"Ah-ha, I see," I pondered for a moment, "I get a community--a family of sisters who will support me and help me out no matter what, I get to be challenged every day to look at who I am and try to be better by seeing Christ in me and you, and I get to learn and have the chance to study at the monastery, graduate school, and everywhere. Those are my non-churchy perks."
The junior responded with a raised eyebrow, "Hmmm..."
Then I continued, "By the way, it isn't MY car, but the car my community has given me to use to travel to school and home to the monastery. It isn't MY phone, the phone is for my use since I'm living away from the monastery. It isn't MY laptop, but while I'm teaching the Prioress wants me to have what I need to do my work well. None of those things are specifically MINE."
A few more juniors raised an eyebrow and looked a bit skeptical, and the best part...they asked another question.

It was a good challenge, but I'd never looked at our life for the 'perks' before. The call to be a Benedictine Sister was such a draw of the heart and soul that visits felt like coming home. I'd visit, then go back to school (purposefully on the other side of the state) and try to prove to myself that I really wasn't called to be a sister. Then God would draw me back to the monastery. Perks? Not a part of the consideration, I just wanted to be where my heart had found a home.

Blessings and Keep Searching!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Celebrate Epiphany!


This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Tomorrow night at the monastery the sisters will process out of Vespers to bless the main entrance of the monastery. In the midst of a simple prayer the prioress chalks the ancient inscription above the doors "20+C+M+B+12". Sister and I will also be blessing the entrance to the Convent Apartment. A reminder that our Benedictine Hospitality is extended to all those who come through our doors.

This welcome to strangers is also reflected in my favorite reading
from the Mass on Feast...Isaiah 60: 1-6...

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!
Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

It is a joy-filled reading of the promised savior to come...Isaiah so long ago shared this vision of hope for everyone. But it is as vibrant in its promise today, we are all called to gather in the radiant light of the King. An amazing reminder that we are called to all come together
and share in the blessing of Christ.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anniversary of Entrance


Fourteen years ago, I stood in the bitter January night with my parents and knocked on one very imposing door. The door swung open and I was asked a question, "what do you seek?" This was the beginning of my life as a Benedictine sister in Sacred Heart Monastery.

Rule of Benedict, Chapter 58
When anyone is newly come for the reformation of her life, let her not be granted an easy entrance; but, as the Apostle says, "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God." If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in her knocking...and the difficulty of admission, and that she persists in her petition, then let entrance be granted her, and let her stay in the guest house for a few days.

After that let her live in the novitiate, where the novices study, eat and sleep.
A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls, to watch over them with the utmost care. Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God, and whether she is zealous
for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.
Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged
ways by which the journey to God is made.
(illumination of Ruth & Naomi by St. John's)
In our community, the entrance ceremony for the postulant has always been a favorite of mine because of the memories it tenders for me. I can remember that cold, clear night very well. My parents stood with me on the steps of the old monastery, steps that had graced the trembling feet of postulants for over 100 years; my Mom was a bit uncertain, while my Father beamed a bit more confidently. After I knocked at the door, Sister Prioress swung it open with the whole warmth of the community gathered behind her and asked me "What do you seek?" Each postulant is to formulate her own answer (with a little guidance), my response had something to do with seeking God with the support and love of the community. The whole community then sang a response as Sister Prioress opened the door wide and brought us inside.

The date of entrance isn't an 'official' anniversary in our community, we count jubilees from first profession (this August is my 12th jubilee). However, I commemorate this anniversary in my private prayer. It has become a day that I remind myself of the young 23-year-old that entered the monastery that day and all that has happened since then. The development of my reflections has revealed one of the most surprising changes for me...I'm learning to love the quiet and solitude. Opening up to the silence (a surprise for my family and friends), is more than the result of getting older; it's the result of slowly growing in my listening in quiet for the voice of the Lord in my Lectio and other prayer.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Praying for Peace

Greetings and Happy New Year!

Times Square was packed with party-ers, fireworks were going off hour-by-hour world wide, and here at Sacred Heart Monastery, were spent a holy hour in silence broken only by occasional song or chanted Psalm.

Sunday, January 1st, was the World Day of Peace. We gathered in the semi-dark of our chapel to begin our prayer for peace in vigil. We began the holy hour with two of our sisters lighting the altar and dedication candles about the chapel (quiet organ accompanied them). Then we sat in silent prayer before God. My assignment was to call us from our silence to the next part of our prayer, Sister Liturgist gave me a bell to sound in calling us back from our recollection. Other 'parts' in our prayer included a song calling us to live in peace, a Psalm asking God to bring us peace, a reading about peace from Thich Nhat Hanh to remind us of the universal call to live for peace, and then we concluded with the Magnificat and a blessing from the prioress. But each of these moments was surrounded by silence, a silence that was filled with the our sisters prayer. A silence that was overpowering in its being so full.

Pope Benedict XVI also spoke for peace and the need to teach our youth to seek and strive after peace...I found his closing lines especially powerful.

All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future
generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace
and builders of peace.