In an article, “Keeping a Journal Can Reduce Stress,” in the Wisconsin State Journal, Sunday, February 10, 2019, psychologist Howard Weissman states, “Journaling is a way of slowing down our limited lease on life and appreciating with gratitude that which makes life meaningful and joyful and worthwhile.” The article states that journaling can be a way to “pause and reflect how [we] got where [we] are.” (p. E6)
Weissman’s thoughts made me think of the purpose of leisure and contemplation in Benedictine life. An important part of Benedictine life is slowing down to take time to notice and reflect on our lives to see how we got to where we are. Opportunities for leisure to reflect are built into our lives at the monastery. In the mornings, we take time individually to reflect on the Scripture for the day to hear God speaking to us about our lives and our world. We gather after morning prayer in our chapter meeting to share together around a reading that focuses on our Benedictine life in community. Of course, it’s still up to each of us to slow ourselves down and make good use of this time for reflection.
Our community dinners on Sunday evenings are often times when the community reflects on events of the week and our life together. At dinner last week we took time to pause and reflect on how we got where we are in terms of being an ecumenical community. We all know the facts of how we took this step, but the conversation revealed new meaning as we talked. Sisters Mary David Walgenbach and Joanne Kollasch shared about important conversations they had with liturgist, Nathan Mitchell and the listening sessions we held with members of Sunday Assembly. Barb Dannhausen, OP was our guest on Sunday. She pointed out that the process was a transformation that happened over time and was guided by the sisters’ vision. This is in contrast to change that happens suddenly and sometimes without much preparation.
Sister Joanne spoke about the ways our retired sisters living in Sioux City, IA supported the process even though they were more removed from the ecumenical experiences that Sisters Mary David and Joanne had in Madison. Sister Mary David noted that our older sisters supported this new step because she and Sister Joanne loved them. Every month for years, Sisters Mary David and Joanne traveled to Iowa to meet with them and talk about each step along the way.
My homily on February 10, on the story of Benedict and Scholastica’s last meeting lifted up the importance of bringing love to all we do. Our reflections in the evening illustrated how love has operated in our own community. Our taking time to reflect on how we got to where we are, showed me, how love has served to move our community into the future and face the challenges that that move has brought. Thomas Merton wrote that we are saved by relationships. All of this gives new meaning to Benedict when he writes: “And may God bring us all together to eternal life.” Our conversation gave me a glimpse of how that operates in our community.