Happiness in Benedictine Ministry


By Sr. Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

I have just started to read Following the Path – The search for a Life of Passion, Purpose and Joy by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB. The first chapter starts with a discussion on happiness.

Here are 4 things we know about happiness:

1.  It is a driving force of life
2. “Neurologists have discovered that the brain is configured for happiness.”
3.  Happiness affects the way we see the world around us.
4. “Happiness has something to do with what we do with who we are.”

Number 4 put me in mind of Chapter 68 of Benedict’s Rule: The Assignment of Impossible Tasks to a Sister:

“A Sister may be assigned a burdensome task or something she cannot do … Should she see, however, that the weight of the burden is altogether too much for her strength, then she should choose the appropriate moment and explain patiently to her superior the reasons why she cannot perform the task.”

Today, in many cases, that task is our ministry.

Some background: When I first came to the community, I was a teacher. I wanted to continue to be a teacher. But my desires had to be balanced against the needs of the community as well. It was up for discussion – and prayerful discernment – with the Prioress.

I still teach today, but with the addition of vocation ministry as per the community’s need. Vocation ministry is absolutely one of the most important ministries the community has. And I am glad to be able to help in this way.

But as Benedict says, if our ministry is too difficult for us – if we struggle with it, if it is not a good fit for us, if it makes us unhappy – then we once again must go to the Prioress for help.

Benedict was a wise man (and his precepts have been adapted for businesses as well). No one should be left in job for which they are unsuited or in which they are unhappy. It makes for unproductive and unhappy community members.

We live the Rule every day. Drop me a line to come see what it’s like!

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