Summer days at the monastery (l-r, top to bottom): work in the prairie,
gathering for prayer in the oratory, time for solitude and mediation,
for study, and for shared meals
The monastery is quite a lively place this summer with volunteers as well as two visiting women religious from Spain living with us in community! This group, varying in numbers over the last two months, joined the sisters in the daily life of the monastery which is a rich flow of diversity and energy.
Weekly volunteers join coworkers in the monastery building or on the grounds. Neighbors and oblates come for daily prayer. Personal retreatants come to walk or read or write or simply take a deep breath away from their everyday activities or to rest in extended sabbatical time. Groups run workshops, hold church leadership or renewal programs and celebrate reunions. People attend a benefit piano concert or view the art on exhibit. Guests just stop by to enjoy lunch or dinner prepared from the garden’s bounty and experience the quiet beauty and life-giving spirit of Benedictine hospitality.
And four more Sojourners are coming soon to join the mix!
Certainly my life is being enriched. I’m learning firsthand the unexpected joys and deep meaning of Benedict’s words, “Let everyone who comes be received as Christ.” Sister Lynne Smith and I just finished studying together Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal. The author, a wife and mother, shares the wisdom she has found in the Rule of Benedict for ordinary lay Christians. She includes chapters on relationship and material things, stability along with change, listening and living in balance. There is much there to ponder, but as she points out, one doesn’t really get it unless it is lived out in the dailiness, i.e., messiness of day-to-day life.
I laughed when Waal described the strength of Benedictine life as “a witness to normalcy.” I don’t think anyone I know would describe me as “normal,” and from what I have experienced so far in my time immersed in Benedictine life, it is far from ordinary. Each day brings something or someone new to our doorstep, to our table or into our hearts.
But I think I see what Waal means. The Benedictine way follows a set pattern of the day with periods for prayer, work, study and leisure. That’s the norm. What I am finding within this simple rhythm is extraordinary – I feel centered, healthy and alive. The daily pattern gives care-filled attention to each part of one’s being: mind, body and spirit. Not only that, each part is considered valuable, interrelated and even crucial to one’s development as a whole and holy person. I both pray and dig in the dirt regularly. I read, share meals and simply hang out with others, often laughing a lot.
Sure there are the inevitable interruptions and surprises throughout any day, along with the scope of human interaction and emotion that make for creative tension. I need to stop writing now and go weed the potato plants. Every day as in any way of life, one needs to reckon with perpetual incompleteness. But Benedict encourages me to bring to each day a balance of elements, present intention and tender attention. That makes all the difference between a day out of whack and one in which I go to bed grateful, hopeful to live yet another day.
Note: All of Trish’s blog posts – past, present and future – can be found at Living in Community – A Benedictine Sojourners View.