The beauty of the fall colors are just beginning to blaze along Lake Sagatagan. Every day as I walk to class, I marvel over the progression of yellow, orange and red in the trees. It’s been about a month since I arrived at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, MN to begin a Masters in Theology with a concentration in Scripture. In the midst of my classes, I flew back to Holy Wisdom Monastery to make the biggest commitment of my life: first monastic profession. On September 20, 2015, surrounded by friends and family and the community of Holy Wisdom from far and near, I gladly made my Benedictine promises to obedience, stability and fidelity to the monastic life.
So many experiences to take in: new campus and classes, new schedules, new relationships and a new season in my formation as I shift from life as a novice to a sister in first profession. Autumn is the season of change, and there is beauty in the letting go and letting in. What has helped me find stability amidst all these shifts is the small intentional community house that I share with four other theology students. As Lilly Fellows, we have all committed to explore life together as part of our education. To that end, we take a class together, meet regularly for house meetings and meals, and receive spiritual direction and guidance from a facilitator each month. Although I am far from the monastery and miss it each day, the gifts of this small community of students helps me remember why I made my profession. In many ways, I am finding the support I need each day–despite the distance.
Praying with the monks at Saint John’s Abbey is helpful. The rhythm is familiar as morning, noon and night, they gather for what Benedict calls the “opus Dei” (work of God). As we intone the scriptures together, I adjust to the collective pace of men practiced in this slow, careful work of turning over the text, alive and full of meaning. It is not the same as home. But as I take a deep breath and join in, I find myself again in the Psalms’ familiar strains of lament and praise, joy and grief, anger and celebration. I remember Walter Brueggeman’s famous rubric on the Psalms: orientation, disorientation, new orientation. Yes. God is here with me in this new place, and I am grateful.
Each day I learn new things. My classes are challenging and enriching. I couldn’t tell you which one is my favorite: Introduction to Christian Tradition, Greek, John and the Johannine Tradition, Discernment in Prayer, Community and Leadership in Community. It’s a great roster with talented, caring professors at the helm. Beyond academia, I am also learning to serve this campus. I was recently elected to our student government and have been serving on the liturgy committee. These roles require listening deeply and respectfully in order to communicate well the concerns of my diverse student body. I am glad for these opportunities to make connections and to learn how to be together.
The night before I left for my profession, fellow students gathered for an evening prayer of blessing in the Emmaus Library. It was the eve of the feast of Hildegard of Bingen. As we praised the wisdom of this 12th century mystic, my scholastic community invoked its blessings on me, soon-to-be-professed sister of an ecumenical Benedictine community in Madison, WI. As they lifted their hands in prayer, gratitude washed over me. We were monks and seminarians, religious and lay, women and men praying and remembering the beauty of our call to Christ, each with its unique shape. What a joy to be joined together in this way and to return to Holy Wisdom richer for the generous gift of their prayers.
It has been a whirlwind month. But as I watch the leaves fall from my window, I am reminded of God’s faithful presence in the midst of community. There is joy in the journey made together.
Read other blog posts from Sister Rosy in her series, Letters home.