Benedictine Stability: The Feet Might Move, but the Heart Stays Home

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By Sister Susan Hutchens, OSB

The first promise a Benedictine monastic makes is that of “stability.”

In the Rule of St. Benedict, stability translates as “standing firm” in one’s desire or willingness to seek God in a particular monastic community until death.

This past summer, at the Benedictine Monastic Institute held annually at St. John’s Abbey and University, Collegeville, MN, I learned the term “dynamic stability” – a reference to stationary movement.

My first thought was: that’s a contradiction in terms. My second thought was – I like it! It made sense.

From 2009 – 2015, my ministry as President of the Federation of St. Benedict took me literally around the world several times over, visiting monasteries.

Yet I knew that the travel to many other communities in no way conflicted with my promise of stability to my own community.

“Standing firm” is much more than a physical presence to my Sisters, although it is definitely that.

It is a commitment to establish life-long bonds of love for the women with whom I live, as together we go to God.

It is a promise of sharing not only one’s life, one’s search for God, but one’s very heart with this community.

It is what a family does.

Of course, what makes this all possible is that before any of us can be committed to God – to stand firm in our resolve – we know that it is God who first loves us and remains faithful to us in love.

This past weekend, some of our alumnae from St. Mary’s Academy modeled for us what stability means for them.

It means commitment to one another as women who attended school together. It means bonds of affection formed with their classmates, teachers, advisors and friends during those years of their youth.

They have remained committed to the people, even though the place – the school they called home for their teenage years – no longer exists.

It is the people whom they remember with love to this day, and whom they will continue to love and support.

True stability is a standing firm in love, a stability of the heart.

No matter where we physically may travel or reside, when we live stability, our feet always know the way home, and our hearts know when we’ve arrived.

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