For several of our recent past very warm (outdoors) days, my reflections have centered on a scriptural passage that recently shouted out to me from the page. The lectio divina of us Benedictines is the monastic process described as lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio , usually mixing sequence according to individual needs at the time. Usually, however, we monastics reading a passage—then meditating on it, followed by prayer that prompts its begin by reading (lectio); then meditate on the message (meditatio), pray with it (oratio) and keep it in our thoughts (contemplatio) alluding to it many times as we act it out through the day.
Although as I write, the summer (July 11) feastday liturgical and community-wide celebration is coming to an end. (There is a March celebration but that is always Lent time so the church liturgists allowed us another day when festive celebration is the norm.) So, in addition to the grand liturgical Divine Office (morning and night prayers) and a Mass of Solemnity, we here at Yankton enjoyed a rare steak supper with all its trimmings. Having steak is rare for us, and some of us then go further–and hope to get a rare–not thoroughly cooked–steak. Wine also appeared at dinner tonight.
My contemplation all day was the culmination of several days of thoughts, prayers, and meditations on a passage I read in anticipation of this great celebration of our Founder and writer of the Holy Rule. In modified form the scriptural passage reads: “You have not chosen me; it is I who have chosen you.” I found this enough to chew on for days. Later today I tried to find my source of it again, John 15:16.
Why this? Well, I’m one who really objected to being chosen! Actually, because several of my Benedictine Sister teachers in the grades in Aberdeen and Mother Jerome, on her visits to my hometown, kept reminding me even while I was in a public high school, that they still felt I should respond to what they felt was my call.
I left Aberdeen in 1945 for Yankton, not because I felt called to be a Benedictine monastic, but because I wanted to prove that God had other things in mind for me. Wrong! There it was—72 years ago initially I didn’t feel like I wanted to chose Him but later it was not long before I realized I was chosen by Him. This time I listened, He chose, I stayed.
So, 70 years ago this summer (we celebrate Diamond 60’s an 70’s only “in-house”) but the Golden Anniversary Sisters, whom I tease are just kids, have—like I did—a public celebration (that”out-house” phrase I alone use gets laughs from only those who had a different image of time and place—a far cry from a public event.
You are welcome to drop in for a visit if you are in the neighborhood some time, but no invitations are otherwise forthcoming. Actually we are feted twice—at the annual June and coming up August annual meetings. So, it seems God had chosen me and when I accepted that finally, I stayed—making vows in 1947. I’m the only one here at our monastery noting that anniversary. We were sixteen professing vows, but only three survive in our daughter-house in Watertown, and I am the only survival in Yankton. No, I’m not the oldest. Scraping 90, but others here have celebrated 75 and more years in vows–S. Leonette, who just died at 101 had her 80th! Our oldest Sister is now 97, shortly celebrating 98. Others are in the low 90’s.
As I look over these past decades I have no regrets. The life fit—I’ve always cherished our chapel and private prayer times, daily opportunity for the Eucharistic celebration, and the opportunities—really gifts—of assignments to study for my three academic degrees (Mt. Marty, Marquette, and Notre Dame) and had 50 years of contacts with students full or part-time in grade, high school, college, and short stints teaching grad students at Marquette U. for a year, and Minnesota’s St. John’s students for their Monastic Studies summer session.
During these years, I have been able, also, to do a great deal of writing, a book on Benedictine monks and nuns–revised and updated when it went out of print — as well as chapters for a number of edited books, articles galore, and some book reviews. I had support from community and family to do a vast amount of research personally her in the U. S. and Canada, as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. (Didn’t get to the Antarctic continent as the penguins there haven’t organized into monasteries).
God has been good to me. Health issues I will always have but, even as a member now of our monastic Care Center (too many knee, leg, shoulder surgeries and a long seige of T.B. in my twenties) I am still able to do some outreach in addition to these blogs.
Dozens of students keep in touch with by e-mail, phone, post, and visits and family members come occasionally to visit.
I read for those Sisters who can’t anymore. I have informal sessions, but keep a 2:30 p. m. Sunday schedule to convey to all who gather in the Activity Room, community items like Newsletters, snippets from the Catholic internet sources especially on the Pope’s travels and some of his homilies or writings, occasional Saints lives commemorated the following week, as well as leading certain day’s Benedictine evening prayers in our Center’s dining room.
I pray and hope that God is pleased with His choice of life for me. I have no regrets except to be consoled that I tried.
St. Therese of Lisieux put it well:
Perfection consists in doing God’s will and being what He wants us to be.”
Like most, I cannot claim to have done or said or felt all perfectly, but I do rely on God’s compassion, mercy and unconditional love to make up for the times I chose wrongly.
I pray, privately, almost daily, my favorite brief request printed in the Liturgical Press Benedictine Short Breviary, asking St. Benedict to intercede with God for a happy death for me. Some communities pray it together daily after evening prayers.
Hopefully, all who have been chosen for a Benedictine mission life as we here have been, will have that prayer granted. I hope and pray that all whose lives I have touched, may be granted a holy, graceful life, and a happy death and that we will all meet again in that eternal realm— the City of God.