I learned that today. About bluebirds. They have reddish orange throats and brownish bodies. But their wings are blue and they are gorgeous when they fly. Like little pieces of sky. Getting up at 6:30 am is getting easier as the days progress. The monastery bells start at 7am and ring every half hour. I appreciate their timekeeping. They are not only a call to prayer for me-I count the ”dings” and then judge from that where I have to be – but also the only timepiece I have since I wear no watch and I have left my phone charger in Chicago. I am usually eating my breakfast when they start their first peal of the new day. Bells, to me, mean happiness. I have always had apartments that were in the vicinity of churches, elementary schools, or trains. . . . They are the sounds I want to hear when my window is open and I fall asleep at night or wake up in the morning. They are happy sounds to me and comfort me. I hear the bells and I know it is time to start the day. I put on my flipflops, sling my daypack over my shoulder and go out through the back door, walk 100 feet between two large pine trees and begin my way to the monastery by way of the prairie path.
It is glorious to watch the new sun over the morning prairie. The air is cool and the dew wets my feet as I walk quickly down the path on my way to morning prayers. There is a small glacial lake – “Lost Lake”- on my way and the other day I saw a host of swallows flying in formation over it, dipping into the sun and looking so happy to be alive. . . . Crickets jump out of my way and the occasional rustling in the vegetation that surrounds me reminds me that I am never alone on these mornings. Tiny black and tan toads hop across the path under my sandals and I always hope I do not crush any of them in my haste to get to the calm of the morning centering prayer.
. . .
The Benedictine way of life is characterized by value-laden practices that respect the whole person – body, mind and spirit. Simplicity manifests a basic honesty and sincerity where the spirit within is shared outwardly with others. What you see is what you get. In chapter 4 of the Rule on the Instruments of Good Works, Benedict says, “speak the truth both in your heart and in your mouth” and “do not wish to be called holy before you really are.” To seek God alone is to place God first in one’s heart within relationships. We find God in the events and people of ordinary life as we nurture an awareness of God’s presence in all things. The Liturgy of the Hours, centering prayer, the Eucharist and individual prayer all call us to our intention to seek God throughout the day. “Listen” is the first word of the Rule. It means listening attentively to hear what the situation demands of me and then respond to it. Benedictine life may be summarized in a single rule: to listen carefully and to respond heartily. That is what obedience is: listening with the ear of one’s heart. When we say that we take people and things to heart, we are straining to hear the meaning of their words and respond freely from the heart. Hospitality is a special form of obedience (like listening to one another): answering another’s call. Benedict says, “Let all guests be received as Christ, for Christ will say ‘I came as a guest, and you received me’.” Benedict extends that same reception of guests of the monastery to all creation, even to the tools of the monastery which he says are to be treated as sacred vessels of the altar. Everyone and everything, all creation is to be treated with reverence.
So…a little different than you’d expect. A little the same… . . . They are loving and peaceful women. They are all welcoming and motherly to us in a way that touches my heart. After all, they just met me! I look forward to another month of getting to know them and their journeys. Maybe they can help me with mine. I hope they can.
For more reflections go to the complete set of excerpts at: A Confirmed City Girl looks for God in a Monastery.