(Originally posted: July 31, 2011)
For the next week I have returned to Holy Wisdom Monastery to participate in their Volunteer in Community (VIC) program. I was a part of their program for seven weeks in 2009 as part of my seminary field education requirement, and now I’m back for a short week as a means to recoup from my last year of seminary, a year of stressful (though amazing) internships and jobs, and three and a half years of the “what ifs” of graduate student life.
And I’m really grateful to be back. While one of my internships and one of my jobs placed me right in the path of Benedictine prayer and spirituality in Washington, DC, it still was not the same. There is a difference between squeezing in some centering prayer on a Monday night as part of my job, and waking up, walking through the prairie, opening up my prayer book with other women, and having the first words out of my mouth be singing the beginning of a psalm. And then returning at noon. And returning after working in the prairie. And, at times, returning again before nightfall. There is no “squeezing in” prayer or meditation. The main focus of the Benedictine life is prayer–work, study, leisure, and hospitality (the other practices of a Benedictine life) are considered to be extensions of sung prayers that organize and order the day.
Having the integration between the various parts of the day keeps me grounded in a way that DC life does not always provide. After I work on the land to restore the environment around the monastery, I cannot help but see the creation themes pop up in the psalms that have been sung throughout centuries by both Judaic and Christian communities. Sharing the experience with other VICs who are also in their 20s and 30s, and sharing it with the sisters who have spent decades and half a century living out this life is also a very inspiring. We are reminded that we cannot do this alone, but together.
I’m looking forward to what the week will bring. Lots of mosquito bites, I’m sure. Some falling asleep at prayer, no doubt. Snippets of drama that come with any community life, of course. But lots of fun, laughter, growth, and rest that we all need to “tune up” our lives from time to time.
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For the entire collection of Sara’s reflections on her experience as a returning Volunteer in Community, go to Spiraling In and Out.