“Gift”–for me the word continues to bring visions of gaily wrapped packages in colorful paper with great big bows. “Emerging gifts,” on the other hand, present an image of those boldly painted European folk-art nesting dolls. These, unlike wrapped gifts, are not torn into with excitement and anticipation; rather they are slowly and carefully unpacked and savored. There is a certain fascination, even mystery, as each doll is discovered hidden inside another.
In a very similar way, Oblate candidates unpack the emerging gifts of Benedictine spirituality during their year of formation. We meet regularly, often with the community of already committed Benedictine Oblates at Holy Wisdom Monastery; we become part of the life and work of Benedictine women. Together we unpack the message and meaning of Benedictine life. We pray together, we listen to wisdom, we learn sacred truths, and we speak of our own journeys as a community of seekers. As candidates, we also open the Rule of Benedict by reading and discussing Sr. Joan Chittister’s book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily. There we uncover an ancient yet ever new spiritual guide. We grow to recognize the gifts of Benedictine spirituality and our own holy longing for these gifts. We open the gifts of simplicity, balance, humility, and the rhythm of holy leisure, prayer, and work, examining each as they appear and apply to our daily lives.
The Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman is believed to have said, “How sad it is to have had the experience, but to have missed its meaning.” As Oblate candidates, we are offered a community, a safe and sacred place, perhaps even a kind of nest–where we can open our experiences and together discover in them a Holy Presence. Unlike the nesting dolls whose opening eventually stops with the last and smallest baby doll inside, our emerging gifts go on and on as we continue, in the spirit of Benedict, to “weave prayer, hospitality, justice and care of the earth into a shared way of life.”