Thursday, March 6, 2008

Saint Gertrude Convent: Monastery in Miniature

I have two bedrooms and two offices - a very unusual circumstance, but part of living "on mission" in Richmond. At first glance the convent in Richmond is VERY different from the monastery. It is a house rather than an ecclesial structure. It had bedrooms that are probably 4x's the size of our rooms at Bristow. Here, I get to take out the garbage on Monday evening and grocery shop every other week. Saint Gertrude Convent is clearly a more domestic space. But, anyone who enters this space will sense something different going on - an unusual focus, a differently reality. Our house is a monastery in miniature.

We have a small oratory, or prayer space, where we three pray the Liturgy of the Hours - the same office being prayed by our sisters in Bristow. We have a dining room where the common meal is shared every evening. We share the "charges" here - everyone does the dishes and answers the phone. We take turns cooking Sunday dinner and rotate liturgical ministries - reading, planning hymns, presiding. Although our house is clearly a home, it is also the domus Dei - house of God.

I'll admit I was a little worried about how life would be here. I knew shifting from 35 sisters to 3 would be challenging. But, I've been surprised by how GOD makes a way for these changes in our lives. It seems that wherever my sisters are is home. As long as Sister Andrea and Sister Charlotte are here, I'm living community. Some refer to this as "stability of the heart" - our promise to live in THIS monastic community, with THESE particular women. Whether I am in my 8x10 room in the monastery or planting tulip bulbs in the backyard in Richmond, I am home.

It helps - markedly - that I have two of everything these days: two sets of office books, bed sheets, towels, and toiletries. It really helps not having to haul everything back and forth every time I return to the monastery. And here, I can eat my breakfast with my Spiderman cereal bowl and spoon every morning. (OK, over-sharing here, but it is a special joy.)

I love living with Sister Andrea and Sister Charlotte. I missed them so much while I was in Rome. Living "on mission" allows us to get to know sisters in new way and forge loving relationships. I am also missing our Sister Gertrude who lived here in Richmond for many years but went to glory in December. Her room is empty now...only three glasses to fill at dinner. I miss her smile and her listening heart. But, if I hadn't been sent to Richmond last September, I wouldn't be able to say that I really loved her. Isn't GOD good?

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki