The first Benedictine Sojourners, Nancy Melin and Linda Steg, arrived at Holy Wisdom Monastery on Wednesday, August 15, 2012. They are settling into the rhythm of monastic life. In a future issue we will share some of their reflections; here we offer the daily rhythm they and the sisters follow.
Our day begins with quiet time, breakfast and personal preparation for the day. Prayer sets the tone as we gather in the oratory for centering prayer and morning prayer. Retreatants, neighbors and oblates join us. Beginning the day with prayer and Scripture reading orients us to the search for God which is at the heart of Benedictine life.
Following morning prayer, the sisters and Sojourners continue forming community in our chapter meeting. Together we read and reflect on the Rule of Benedict, a commentary or a related topic. We share our daily schedules and support each other in our activities and ministries. We are currently reading about monastic work in Prayer and Community by Columba Stewart. This has been especially relevant since the Sojourners have left their professions and are taking up different work here at the monastery. Benedictine work is not meant to define our identity but to be a means to participate in what God wants to accomplish.
Work in the monastery is regularly interrupted for prayer. That can feel frustrating when we want to finish just one more thing. But it calls us back to our primary intention to seek God. We have a period of work in the morning and again in the afternoon.
Our Volunteers in Community this past summer experienced a taste of the Benedictine rhythm of work and prayer. One of them offered this reflection on her experience:
I was actually upset on the first couple of days when we left the garden half weeded to go to prayer. I thought to myself, “Who does this?!” … I learned that it takes more discipline to leave a task for prayer, or continue a mealtime conversation at another time than it does to see these things through at that very moment. … Benedictine living is living with the understanding that I cannot master or finish any of the things that God asks of me, but what I can do is my part, and when I do my part that makes God happy and preserves my sanity!
The Sojourners are currently working in the garden harvesting produce and weeding (both abundant this year!) and in the kitchen processing the produce for the freezer or meals served to our community and guests. They recently dug the remaining potato crop which will supply us into the winter. Tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans need to be picked every other day!
Several days a week the Sojourners have an hour for faith formation. Twice a week they meet for a class led by one of the sisters or an oblate. On other days they are able to spend time in the library to read and study. Currently, during class time, we are reading and discussing Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister and watching Thomas Keating’s videos, The Spiritual Journey, to learn the practice of centering prayer.
Evenings and portions of Saturday and Sunday are for leisure: conversation, walks, reading, a bike ride, bird watching, visits to Madison. Each day is full but includes prayer, work, study and leisure – the basics of Benedictine life which is ordinary life lived well.
The Benedictine Sojourner program is designed to provide a setting where single women experience community with the sisters, learn Benedictine spirituality and values and reflect on the meaning and purpose of life. It provides an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth through reflection and the daily rhythm of Benedictine life that strengthens participants in order to carry the experience out into the world.
If you or a woman you know is interested in learning more about becoming a Benedictine Sojourner, contact Sister Lynne Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-831-9305.