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Trish Stefanik A Benedictine Sojourner's View, Living in Community, Monastic Life 1 Comment

giant willow tree by Lost LakeNow that I have been here for almost three months, the question most often posed to me has changed from, What is your day like? (see All in Time, Part II) to, How are you doing (i.e., now that the initial flush of newness is fading)? I hear myself say, “I am still finding my way, but I feel very much at home.” At home…

I recently watched The Hobbit on DVD. In J. R .R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, hobbit Bilbo Baggins leaves his beloved shire, gently nudged by his friend the wizard Gandalf, and finds himself on an “unexpected journey” into a new region of his Middle-earth world, on an uncertain mission, in the company of a people he barely knows. He is strangely propelled to make the adventure, but at the same time doubts himself in new territory. “I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong, that’s home.” Baggins is tempted to turn back, but he decides to keep on with his companions in their quest to reclaim their long-lost home. He wants them, everyone really, to have a home, a place of belonging. He is also learning things about himself that he could never have realized without setting out into the unknown.

I realize I am a bit homesick for my “shire” – my things, yes, and the people I have known who, in being themselves and allowing me to be myself, made a beautiful home. Yet I was compelled by some mysterious force to make the journey to this particular place. I am being stretched to grow even more, and that can feel uneasy.

In The Hobbit, Gandalf tries to explain why he chose the ordinary Baggins to be a part of what is a seemingly impossible journey. He offers, “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay … small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? That’s because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” Holy Wisdom is a welcoming place, where many come and feel at home. I admire the sisters’ mission. Sister Joanne Kollasch says that the Benedictine way “is always making room for the other.” I am learning that this can be a struggle, daily; but paradoxically, as I continue on the seemingly impossible journey, I am coming home, truly.

The sisters have been committed for years to the sometimes hard Gospel message of unconditional love and radical hospitality. Guided by a simple little road map called the Rule of Benedict, they remind me that we ourselves are meant to be home for each other. Through their steadfast faith, and the little things they do every day, they give me courage.

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