What is your image of a monastery?

Lynne Smith, OSB Living in Community, Monastic Life, Women Exploring Community Leave a Comment

In honor of women who are gathering at Holy Wisdom Monastery next week for an Ever Wonder? retreat (or those who may still be thinking of testing the waters of this community), I would like to share this personal reflection written by Mary Lynn Adams, associate member of our community:

What is your image of a monastery?  An ancient building, with thick, stone walls?  Monks covered in rough dark cowls, noiselessly passing along the edges of corridors?  Solemn prayers?  Stark living conditions?  Being cut off from family, friends and community?

Well, take that image, and set it to one side. Because here at Holy Wisdom Monastery, the reality is quite different!

Let me take you on a tour of the monastery, as I’ve come to know it.

Meet me in the new monastery building: your reaction when you first come in will likely be a reverent “wow”. You’ll see a monastery building with clean, curved lines, suffused with natural light. Are you staying the night? You’ll be staying at the guest house, a modern, comfortable building just a few steps down the hill from the monastery.

Come down to the oratory with me and join us in the Liturgy of the Hours. Periods of silence, a hymn of praise, simple Psalm tones, a reading from scripture, time to reflect. Here is where the work of God takes place, five times a day, with God’s creation looking in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Trees and grasses wave, birds call in harmony just outside the oratory windows.

At lunch, let me introduce you to the sisters. A group of women, well educated, grounded, and with the sense of humor that comes from contentment, peace and joy. That peace and joy which comes from study of the Gospel – the Good News! – permeates the monastery. The sisters practice a gracious hospitality.  They listen with a sincere interest, and welcome each guest. They wear a simple, silver Benedictine cross as the symbol of their profession.  Their lives demonstrate the qualities that St. Benedict taught his monks.

On the subject of lunch, I mustn’t neglect to mention that our meals are delicious – our cook is a wonder with fresh vegetables and other in-season produce, and the cookies! Oh my!

Take some time now to wander the grounds: restored prairie bursting with wildflowers, oak woods alive with the breeze and squirrels and various critters, a pond hosting sandhill cranes, ducks and geese. To be here is to have the opportunity to experience the closeness of God, the God of creation, the God who is parent to us all, whose love overflows in the beauties of nature. To live here is to continue relationships with family and friends, and to be welcoming and engaged with the community surrounding the monastery as they come for retreats, for prayer, for worship. To live here is to live in community with women of various Christian traditions, who hold all things in common as they follow the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict.

This is the monastery I have come to know and love.  Wouldn’t you like to come and experience this for yourself?

Another image of our monastery can be found in Sister Act, the article about Holy Wisdom Monastery, written by Betsy Shirley, which appeared in Sojourners magazine in April, 2011.  For the full version, with photos, clink on the “PDF version” link.

But better still, as Mary Lynn asks, wouldn’t you like to come and experience this for yourself? True Benedictine hospitality awaits you here!

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