Saturday, July 18, 2009

On my way home...

I’ve been on the dark side of the moon – figuratively speaking. Although the wi-fi was plentiful at St. Ben’s, I didn’t have the same luck at St. John’s. I’ve just boarded the second plane of the day. This one is direct to Dulles from Minneapolis/St. Paul.With two hours of “air time”, a blog is inevitable (and certainly long-overdue.) The liturgy meeting was wonderful, as was seeing folks from my past. (I moved to MN ten years ago to do graduate work and remained until 2002.) There are some people who just embody St. John’s. Catching up with these good people is always a joy. One encounter, though, was not as joyful. I met a woman who I had known just casually ten years ago. She’s living with a stage 4 cancer. I’d know her beautiful face anywhere in spite of her baldness. She’s going without scarf or wig which provides an instant reality check for those who see her. I did what people do. “How are you doing?” She responded, “One day at a time.” I felt my question wholly inadequate, almost intrusive, though that would never be my intent. I will pray for her, without fail. Yet, I feel as if even that lacks something.

I guess we can never know what another person is experiencing - even if it’s someone we love fiercely. Illness can be a hermitage – a lonely place where only GOD can touch the pain – help us navigate this new place of unknowing. When those we love enter this hermitage, all we can do is stand by the door and wait patiently. We can go no farther until we are invited. But once that door is opened from the inside, we can be with them. It won’t mean understanding the spiritual work that is in progress, or taking away the physical burdens that constrain a life that longs to be lived to the full. But we can visit them in the hermitage – listen with the ear of the heart, wipe away the tears or just cry with them, affirm the life force that fuels both the suffering body and the searching soul, and assure them of love which is their present share in the life that never ends. We can do all this and we must. For we who are healthy are blessed by those for whom each breath is gift. We who are healthy forget all too easily how very precious and precarious life is in the body. I hope when it’s my turn to enter the hermitage of illness, someone will love me enough to wait patiently at the door.

Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My other monastery...

I'm traveling again. This time it's a liturgy meeting at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN. The meeting begins on Monday but I flew out a few days early to work on a separate liturgy project with a sister at St. Benedict's Monastery - 4 miles from St. John's. Here's the blessing - I get to work with one of my favorite people in one of my favorite places in the world.

I got to know these sisters ten years ago when I studied at St. John's. I would come over every Sunday for the Eucharist. There was something here I needed and though it took some time to unpack, I soon figured out that I needed to be with these good women as much as possible. So, I got "involved" - the liturgist trained me to be a lector and the ushers trained me to do hospitality. Though I lived four miles away and prayed morning and evening with monks, St. Ben's became my "parish" - the place where my spirit was strengthened and my soul refreshed.

Yesterday, I spent the summer feast of Saint Benedict in my other monastery. I was witness to a perpetual monastic profession and a first monastic profession all in one day! Sister Trish received the ring and Novice Karen became Sister Karen. What joy filled this house! The altar and ambo were covered in multi-colored cloth dyed and woven by a sister-artisan. The flowers were cut from the massive garden here - tall, triumphant lilies. And the music...dear GOD, the music! I only wept once - pretty good for me. Something in the music here usually gets to me. The memories of being nurtured and sustained in this place flood back when the schola sings. Without these sturdy, gracious, faithful women, I would have lost my nerve and left my studies in favor of the new life I'd found in Bristow, Virginia. Sharing in their life sustained my desire for community as I ticked off the weeks, months and years until graduation.

I have often thought about the mystery of stability - why a monastic belongs in a particular community. Only GOD can explain the purpose of each vocation - how a soul is planted in just the right monastic soil. I am, and will always be, a Benedictine Sister of Virginia. Yet, there is a part of me that will always feel "at home" here at St. Ben's.

Blessings, love to you all and happy feast!

- Sister Vicki