Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vowed Life as a Benedictine

     At a recent Listen retreat held here at St. Walburg Monastery some of the young women wanted to know more about "vowed life." The topic is broad and may seem a little abstract. I interpret it in a Benedictine sense.
     "Vowed life" means consecrated life or a religious vocation. Both terms refer to a person's response to God by way of a public promise or profession. For Benedictines that includes the community confirmation of her profession to live and grow together in a lifelong relationship with God.
     For Benedictines "vowed life" means participation in a continuing communal commitment to Christ. Benedictines publicly profess three monastic vows which guide and free us to live together and love wholeheartedly. The three monastic vows are: Stability in a particular monastic community, which supports a woman's celibacy; Obedience according to the norms of the Gospel, the rule of Benedict and the Federation's Constitutions. Obedience is shown by the sister's living response to her prioress, her sisters, and the Church with its chief pastor, the Pope; Fidelity to the monastic way of life, which means living out Gospel values with single-heartedness, turning from self-centeredness, and holding all goods in common with her sisters. Common ownership as an effect of Benedictine monastic profession means that we provide for and share life with one another.
     Benedictines give priority to prayer and community because this is where our lifelong search for God happens. We structure our lives to support these essential elements and our mission "to serve Christ in the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the stranger and the guest." Since formation takes place in the center of the community's life, the monastery provides for each member's growth and well-being, physical, spiritual, social, emotional, educational and professional.
      As you see, "vowed life" is a broad topic and involves several other concepts, like authority, belonging, talents, individuality, personalities, relationships, abilities, collaboration, cooperation, etc. Because the long Benedictine tradition of vowed life is an unique call to practical reverences, adaptability and hospitality, these topics are relevant daily.    Sr. Martha Walther, OSB

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where are the women who want to seek God in prayer, community and service??

     I’ve just spent parts of the past two days with over fifty leaders of women’s religious institutes from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. In our discussions it was clear that we believe in the choice we each made years ago to join a religious community—in my case, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery. We are faithful to our baptismal call, to the Gospel, our rule, charism, constitutions and perpetual profession. We are formed in the tradition of complete self-donation. We believe the Church needs and desires such commitment. 
     We know our median ages and our dwindling numbers. As individuals we will die one day. Our communities may die too, but we don’t believe that has to happen. We wonder, “Are there women who aspire to give totally of themselves to seek for God in prayer, community and service to others? If there are, tell them about us. If not, why not? We and the Church want to know.
      Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall: the season of letting go

As I watch signs of fall appearing on the monastery grounds I find myself delighting in the splashes of color, the deer eating the acorns under the oaks, and the crispness of the morning air.   These signs occur at unexpected moments, giving me pause to ponder God’s creation and the value of the little experiences.   It is these little experiences which bring a joy that pierces the daily and reminds me of the possibility for beauty amidst change and transition.  Perhaps it is this bittersweet quality of fall which makes it among my favorite seasons.  Like fall, life is about the journey and transitions; about finding beauty and joy even as what is now is letting go for what is to be.  So as fall continues to unfold I pray that you may find moments which bring you joy and a deeper awareness of God’s presence both within and around you. Sr. Kimberly Porter

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Breaking New Ground

     When a series of anything begins, something has to come first. This St. Walburg blog will be a series of reflections, and I was asked to initiate it. 
 Having been around more than 70 years and in community more than 50, I’ve experienced many firsts, sometimes by chance, other times by choice, mine or someone else’s. For me, being first usually brings at least a touch of fear. What do I fear? Risk? Responsibility? Success? Failure?  I found a clue in something Pablo Picasso observed: “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” Going first or taking a chance is a creative act, so something has to die. 
     Life itself can be seen as an act of continuous creating and re-creating, of dying and rising; in this regard, monastic life is no different. There’s a saying that in order for something to stay true to itself, it has to change. This is because its context, the world and the societies in it, is always changing. For example, over the past 1500 years Benedict and his thousands of followers have continually recreated the monastic journey, re-shaping the familiar and time-worn to fit into each  new environment, each  new age. 
     When the world we know is beset with one crisis piled on another, as seems to happen often in our time, the pressure to hold on to the familiar in the face of drastic change is huge. To remain in a comfort zone, however, is frequently not an option; stepping out into something new has to be faced. In doing this, some kind of risk is usually unavoidable. The challenge can be daunting, but if we let it, hope is its companion. 
     Not all re-creation is drastic or even dramatic, but each day brings opportunity, even demand for dealing with something in a way we hadn’t planned. As we mature we try to learn how to adjust our vision and expectations when life changes around us. My hope is that the series of reflections readers find in this blog will shed light on some of today’s joys and challenges. One writer’s thoughts might give bit of hope in a tough time; another might reveal ways to experience hidden delights easily missed in the daily rush. At any rate, may the words found in this space help readers more easily know the loving God who is our companion with every step, whether the path is well worn or one needing to be newly broken. 
                                                                                                                        Colleen Winston, OSB