Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Silent Retreat...

Retreat… It’s a funny word for a religious practice. I have visions of Custer’s “last stand” and the whiff of defeat wafting through the air. No, retreat in a monastery is far from our military images. It is, however, a very intentional pulling back, but not in the heat of some spiritual battle. We pull back from regular life – from the normal patterns of work, rest and prayer to devote ourselves to silence, solitude and the Word.

As many of you know, when I first came to the monastery, silent retreat was NOT my favorite thing. I have grown to love these days – to cherish what they contain and most of all, what they cannot - the illusive moments of grace and illumination. These five days are always a gift to me in some way. The Spirit sees to it.

Our prioress secures our retreat director several years in advance – seriously. These holy ammas and abbas have to be booked like a wedding hall. They are so in demand and, like most monastics, quite conscious about how much time they can actually spend outside their own monastery. This year we had Abbot John Klassen, OSB – 10th abbot of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN.

Abbot John’s focus was the parables of JESUS. In five days we covered all the “biggies” and some obscure stories whose meaning had been lost on me. In nearly every parable, Abbot John showed me something new. For me this is what retreat is all about – sharpening vision. The GOD who knows and loves us intimately is always there…waiting, loving, forgiving. Retreat is an opportunity to get my spiritual eyes checked. I almost always need a new prescription! But the joy of putting those new glasses…and seeing one thing perfectly – just for a few days – this is the grace of retreat.

I am grateful for those silent days – for the absence of the hall pager, the telephone and the TV. I am grateful for the rest which always precedes new insight. I am grateful for the long swims in the summer sunlight and books to devour. I am most grateful for the chance to see my sisters pray and devout themselves to this great thing we do alone/together.

Have you ever been on “retreat?” If not, then maybe it’s time to give it a try. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Blessings and love to you all…

- Sister Vicki

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"IF GOD does not build the house, the builders work in vain."

Greetings, friends!

Our retreat ended Friday afternoon and we plunged right in to a Chapter Meeting that afternoon – ALL AFTERNOON! I promise to write a bit about our wonderful retreat, but I’m just bursting with good news that can’t wait.
First, let me begin with some information. The monastic Chapter is, technically, the perpetually professed members of the community. This distinction enables a sister to vote and be voted upon - in most instances. Our community is really royal about welcoming all members to the Chapter meetings even if they cannot yet vote on matters of importance. The prioress often allows those in first profession to participate in "consultative" votes - a vote that give her the sense of where the community is going, but to the results of which she is not bound. I remember getting a big kick out of those. There are lots of rules and stipulations about Chapter in our constituion. New members study the constitution to get a sense of where we fit in the universal Church, in our Federation and what makes us unique as an autonomous house. OK...enough. To the news!

The monastic Chapter has accepted the requests of our postulants to begin novitiate. Translation: Kathy and Karen become “sisters” on August 30th! And, the sweetest thing of all? Sister Veronica and I got to vote! Yup. A real paper and pencil vote. Ah…life after the ring!

There's more news… Mary Clark, a participant in our “Live-In Program”, has been accepted for entrance into our community. Mary will knock on the Chapel door and become a postulant on Sunday, August 31st. (I’m so excited my fingers can barely find the keys!)

GOD is building our house... with living stones – faithful, loving women who are ready to share the work and prayer of this monastic community. Join me in blessing GOD for Kathy, Karen and Mary. (I should have some more good news in a few weeks J.)

Blessings and love to you all…

- Sister Vicki