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 58In 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.
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)
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.