I’ve recently been reading ’s book, The Hidden Life of Trees. In his chapter on “Social Security” he notes that trees of the same species like to grow close together. It turns out that beech trees, with which Wohlleben is most familiar, share resources with each other. Researchers found that they share the sugar produced among them through their root systems. The trees growing in better conditions passed some of the sugar they produced to those growing in less favorable conditions so they could each grow into the best tree they can be. Forests form communities of support through their roots and vast fungi networks that connect them underground. “[A] tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” “[The trees’] well-being depends on their community …” (p. 17)
This is also true of a Benedictine community. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the vast network of which Holy Wisdom Monastery is a part. We are members in the Federation of St. Gertrude and part of the worldwide network of Benedictine monasteries. We bring our ecumenical vision to the Benedictine communities in our federation.
Because we are ecumenical, we feel a connection with the diversity of expression in the Christian churches. Our associate membership in the Wisconsin Council of Churches is a concrete example of this network to which we belong.
Like a healthy forest, Holy Wisdom Monastery has a vast network of people around us that support and extend our work beginning with oblates and the members of the communities of Holy Wisdom. The network extends to people who hear about us from these members, visitors and guests of the monastery, and people like you who read this blog or our newsletter or Facebook page online.
Recently, Nancy Enderle, co-director of the Ecumenical Center for Clergy Spiritual Renewal, had a conversation with Dr. Anna Case Winters, a professor at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Dr. Case Winters, who is the North American Representative to the Notre Dame Consultation, was excited to hear from Nancy about Holy Wisdom Monastery and our work. At the Consultation, five world communions: Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed met to continue their ecumenical dialogue.
At Holy Wisdom Monastery, where we practice an everyday ecumenism of shared experience and prayer, it is encouraging to hear that these denominations, long-divided, are coming close together by beginning “from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common…” (From Conflict to Communion, Lund 2016). Through Nancy’s conversation with Dr. Case Winters, our network now includes a small connection to these dialogues.
The network that supports and extends the monastery’s work includes such people as Claire Bjork who did her Ph.D. dissertation project, Caring for Common Ground, at Holy Wisdom as well as Kate Stel, who was a summer intern with us last year and mentioned Holy Wisdom monastery and our environmental and spiritual work in her Master of Divinity thesis. The monastery’s work was enriched by these two women who worked with us for a short time.
Saint Benedict teaches us that guests bring a blessing to the monastery and we, in turn, are to be a blessing to the guest. We experience this blessing again and again when people visit the monastery. We pray that guests and visitors are blessed when they come.
Since reading Wohlleber’s book, when I walk in our oak woods now, I think of the underground network that is supporting the large and small trees among whom I love to walk. And it reminds me to give thanks for the vast network of people who support and enrich the work of the monastery. Thank you for your part in the network!