Lector with out-stretched arms leading the worshiping community at Holy Wisdom Monastery.

A passion for wisdom

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community Leave a Comment

“Wisdom has built her house and spread her table.” —Proverbs 9

Lector with out-stretched arms leading the worshiping community at Holy Wisdom Monastery.

A warm welcome, shared worship and thanksgiving, and an open communion table are all parts of a wisdom way of life at Holy Wisdom Monastery. (photo by Gregory Bleck)

This is a phrase we sing frequently as an antiphon in our Liturgy of the Hours. It was also the text chosen for an address, which we re-discovered recently, by Sister Donald Corcoran, OSB, CAM. As a member of our Ecumenical Board in the 1990’s, Sister Donald spoke at the blessing of the renovated monastery building (now our Retreat & Guest House) on May 21, 1995. I found wonderful connections between Sister Donald’s comments and the ways we continue to embody a passion for wisdom here at Holy Wisdom Monastery.

Benedict of Nursia was a wisdom figure of Western civilization. His Rule, as a guide for life, is a work of wisdom literature. It flows from his reflection on Scripture and his experience of life in community. His wisdom, flowing from the Gospel, takes shape in the lives of those who follow his guidance today.

At the time Sister Donald shared her reflections, the sisters’ community was creating their first master plan, considering new ways of caring for the land and establishing an Ecumenical Board representing various Christian traditions. The Ecumenical Board met with and supported the sisters through the journey to become an ecumenical Benedictine community.

Sister Donald’s reflections (below, in italics) point to values that continue to be foundational for Holy Wisdom Monastery, values we seek to embody individually and corporately.

• “The Spirit is speaking strongly in the increasing and widespread ferment for greater and greater Christian community or koinonia.”

The present mission statement of Holy Wisdom Monastery (“weaving prayer, hospitality, justice and care for the earth into a shared way of life”) reflects this shared way of life and is something people come here seeking—a form of community that will support them in their spiritual life.

Since 1995, the monastery has grown into a “community of communities” encompassing the sisters’ community, the oblate community, Sunday Assembly, coworkers, the Friends of Wisdom Prairie, volunteers, retreatants, donors and Benedictine Sojourners.

• “The wise person builds their house on rock –the rock here is the very Benedictine foundational virtue of reverence”

Sisters, retreatants and guests experience this reverence in prayer, in silence, in respect given to all who come to the monastery. Richard and Phyllis Pelkey, loyal monastery volunteers now deceased, embodied Benedictine reverence in their work of restoring the tables and chairs here. Over a period of many months they carefully took each table or chair apart, refinished and tightened them, restoring them to their original luster. They worked with deep respect for the wood and the service the tables and chairs gave to the many guests of the monastery. We are blessed by the reverence of their work.

This sense of reverence for all is part of a deepening ecumenism here at Holy Wisdom Monastery. This is reflected in Sunday Assembly, in the participation and the leadership gifts people bring from many traditions, all coming together in Christian worship.

• “Wisdom has a particular concreteness to it….Wisdom seeks embodiment in life.”

Wisdom is personal and embodied. It comes from prayer and reflection on our life experiences. Sister Joanne Kollasch often says Benedictine spirituality is nothing unless it comes alive in a person.

Colleen Hartung, a current Board and Sunday Assembly member, notes how members of Sunday Assembly embody the liturgy in the ways they treat others, greet guests, and show respect for all.

• “The work of the monk, I suggest, is to do the work of integration, reconciliation, “con-centration”—to unite with the Center of all centers and therefore to experience ‘no circumference,’ no exclusion, to be embracing, welcoming.”

We experience this “con-centration” as we integrate the mission of Holy Wisdom Monastery into who we are and what we do. It takes a lifetime to integrate the values we hold into the way we live. We seek to support one another in our community of communities as we do this work of integration.

As we integrate these values into our actions we become more centered, more con-centrated with less and less exclusion. This is the underlying ethos here at Holy Wisdom Monastery—seeing God in all things and recognizing that we need each other to help us live in this way.


Read other posts in this series:  Building community

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