Keeping the Sabbath

Honour the wisdom of dormancy. Know that when you aren’t doing something that is productive, you are giving your soul the time and space it needs to quietly take in the nutrients it requires to remain productive. Buy a rocking chair and sit in it regularly, not thinking, not praying, not talking to a friend, just sitting, your soul a fallow field that is quietly waiting. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

This week my soul has been caught up in the whirlwind of “busyness,” with no time for the kind of quiet that is needed to seek God. Can you relate? Events have been out of my control. Projects have been piling up, while my calendar fills to overflowing. Even as a Monastic woman committed to a balanced life of prayer, community and ministry, I can find myself in a whirl with my priorities mixed up. Continue Reading

Benedictine Hospitality

Another key Benedictine value – and charism – is hospitality. (A charism is a gift from God to be shared with the world). We seek to offer warmth, tolerance and joy when welcoming others. We seek to welcome others as they are. We believe, as St. Benedict says, that All guests … are to be welcomed as Christ. RB: 53 For more reflections on Benedictine values, read our vocation newsletter, Steps, and visit our Benedictine Oblates blog!

In a Fog?

Fall scene overlooking the Mississippi River

This morning as I walked outside on the Monastery patio overlooking the lake before Vespers, I was in awe. The lake was still, hardly a stir, and the fog hugged close to the surface. It was breathtaking.

As I went upstairs to join the Sisters at Lauds (Morning Prayer), the sun began to lighten the darkness ever so subtly. By the time Eucharist began about an hour later, the sun was brilliant, the lake was calm and the fog was gone until another morning. The fall colors vibrated through the woods surrounding our Chapel. Clarity!

It seems to me the issues surrounding our discernment may be as the fog hovering over our inner self. Continue Reading

Embracing humor and fun in discernment

Benedictine Sisters play basketball at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, Ill.

I loved the closing talk at the Vocation Conference. It was about joy, laughter and humor: a somewhat odd but wholly welcome concept when talking about the serious task of discernment and vocation ministry.

I loved the talk because it validated my serious belief that we have to be light-hearted. I was seriously ill about 3 years ago and ever since my recovery I insist on humor and fun – as much as possible! – every day. (That’s me on the left, beating Sr. Claudia in a little one-on-one!) Life is way too short to be entirely serious. Read Ecclesiastes and remember life is a cycle with time for all emotions.

Discernment is a time for all emotions, too. Continue Reading

Discerning with St. Paul

This week I am in Louisville, Ky., for the National Religious Vocation Conference which is the professional organization for North American vocation directors. This is always an energizing time and a great opportunity to network and share vocation experiences. Our keynote speaker on Friday was the renowned Scripture scholar, Fr. Don Senior. His focus was on St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul’s journey was marked by extremes, beginning with anti-Christian activities as the early church struggled to carry on Jesus’ ministry and teaching. He was a violent man – dragging Christians out of their homes, beating those he caught and even cheering as Stephen was stoned to death. Continue Reading

Take a Contemplative Walk

Benedictine Sister walks on St. Mary Monastery grounds in Rock Island, Ill.

I am in Southern Indiana for a directed retreat. The gorgeous fall weather helps enrich this already-rich environment of prayer and people. I cherish my time here for many reasons, but most especially because God is always good to my prayer life here!

One of the best parts of retreat is the opportunity for a refreshing contemplative walk. Like anyone, my life can become over-filled with the to do’s, expectations and stuff I think is important. When that happens I lose the quiet walk of contemplation…or at least it becomes noisier!

A contemplative walk is when your life and God are more in sync and, in essence, flowing well together. Continue Reading

Shedding Our Leaves to Grow

Autumn foliage along the Mississippi River, near the Benedictine Sisters St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Ill.

Read Nancy’s wonderful discernment prayer comparing her life to autumn in “A Time to Plant,” below. Leaves must fall before new growth can begin, she says, and I agree! In our lives we must shed our old leaves in order to grow.

Discernment is a Paschal Mystery walk, where we pray to let go of what we cling to and learn to embrace what God sets before us. What is it in our lives that God is nudging us to change and to move beyond? These difficult inner movements require a listening heart, a trusting heart and an attentive heart. We must die to our desires and comforts in order for God to break through with God’s desires for us.

The Paschal Mystery – Jesus letting go of human life – went beyond the everyday to embrace God’s plan of resurrection and eternal life. Our discernment journey may ask the same of us – to let go of the familiar, the everyday – in order to embrace God’s plan for us. Not an easy journey but a transformative journey – where we are more deeply responding to God’s new life for us.

Your Gifts

Stefanie posted two great prayers this week regarding discernment (in “A Time to Plant,” below). What struck me was each prayer referred to knowing your gifts and how best to use them in service of God and God’s People. That is the crux of discernment!

Here’s what I mean: While our Benedictine community has the gift of leading a rhythmic life of prayer and work, other communities are quite different. Many emphasize work more than living in community and sharing prayer. Some are cloistered and emphasize prayer over work. Our community values living together at the monastery, following a balanced life of prayer and work. Other communities allow Sisters to live wherever their jobs take them, often living alone or in small groups.

Do your gifts emphasize prayer, community and ministry? If so, visit our Benedictine community! If your gift is to do ministry without such an emphasis on life and prayer in community, an Apostolic community may be your match.

Know yourself, your gifts and how you are called to use them in your life. Try using Stefanie’s prayers as a guide to your reflection.