One Heart and One Soul: Stories from our Monastic Home%22And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord...For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.%22 Rule of Benedict, Prologue 45-49
As Benedictines, our common life as a community or family is central to our charism. It is so much a part of our dailiness that we sometimes don’t recognize how important or unique it might be to others outside of our life. The National Religious Vocations Conference reminded us of the importance of our common life when they shared a recent “Fun Fact Friday“:
Did you know that the majority (80%) of those professing final vows rated sharing meals together as very important aspects of community life? When inquirers and discerners spend time visiting communities, make time to eat together with community members to experience our diversity of recipes and meals. (Source: 2016 USCCB/CARA Profession Class Reports).
Benedictines have been sharing meals for over 1500 years! Who knew that this little detail would be as important to 80% of new seekers as it was to Benedict himself. Benedict’s Rule established the shared meal as central to community life as prayer. The Rule of Benedict includes chapters on when meals should be served, who should serve the meals, and even what should be served at the meals. Those early centuries were a time of punishment for misbehavior, Benedict saw separation from the common table as a way of helping the monks and sisters to seek reparation for sins. The common table was so important that it was a suffering to miss the community meal, the family time at table together.
The measure of excommunication or of chastisement should correspond to the degree of fault, which degree is estimated by the judgment of the Abbess.
If a sister is found guilty of lighter faults, let her be excluded from the common table. Now the program for one deprived of the company of the table shall be as follows…in the refectory she shall take her food alone after the community meal,so that if they eat at the sixth hour, for instance, that sister shall eat at the ninth, while if they eat at the ninth hour she shall eat in the evening, until by a suitable satisfaction she obtains pardon
(Rule of Benedict 24).
In our monastery, the common table is an essential part of our life. We share our meals as a family. In the morning, sisters can gather for a silent breakfast before prayer or an open breakfast after Mass. All of us gather for lunch and supper in the refectory, dining room, at the monastery. It is a time for us to share the events of the day, to tell stories of our families, and to remember our tales of sisters who have died; the dining room, refectory (virtual tour #9). While we may not continue the practice of excommunication from the common table, sisters feel the loss of the other when someone needs to absent herself due to health or ministry.
Community meals continue to be a center for our Benedictine way of life today. Sisters take turns serving the meals, doing the dishes, and cleaning the dining room. It is where we celebrate feastdays and birthdays, welcome residential volunteers and guests, and offers blessings of thanks for those who have served with us.
Are you discerning God’s Call? Are you part of the 80% that rated a shared meal as very important?
Join us for a weekend retreat from September 22-24; take the opportunity to meet other seekers and reflect on God’s Call, and share in our prayer and meals …
Blessings to you,
Return to “One Heart and One Soul”
To Paradise now may the angels bring you,
and may the martyrs now come to meet you on your way,
and may you be led into the holy city Jerusalem.
All the choirs of angels make you welcome there,
and with Lazarus once so ill and poor,
may peaceful joy be now forever yours.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Return to “One Heart and One Soul”
The Rule of Benedict calls the community to service to each other. While a sister’s assigned work or ministry might lead to her to teaching, nursing, pastoral care, or other paid ministry, her service to her Benedictine sisters is understood to be a celebration of mutual obedience and good zeal.
“Obedience is a blessing to be shown by all, not only to the abbot but also to one another as brothers, since we know that it is by this way of obedience that we go to God. Therefore, although orders of the abbot or of the priors appointed by him take precedence, and no unofficial order may supersede them, in every other instance younger monks should obey their seniors with all love and concern. Anyone found objecting to this should be reproved” (RB 71: 1-5).
“Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from vices and leads to God and to life everlasting. This zeal, therefore, the sisters should practice with the most fervent love. Thus they should anticipate one another in honor; most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of character; vie in paying obedience one to another. No one following what she considers useful for herself, but rather what benefits another; tender the charity of sisterhood chastely; fear God in love; love their Abbess with a sincere and humble charity; prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And may He bring us all together to life everlasting” (RB 72)!
With these words of Benedict and the needs of our sisters in mind, our intrepid Garden Sisters dressed themselves in boots and bluejeans and headed out to the cornfields. The hard work of walking the field and picking corn paid off when the sisters filled the pickup to the brim with fresh sweet corn. After the last bucketful was balanced on the truck, the sisters returned to the monastery for a break.
“And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty should require that they themselves do the work of gathering the harvest, let them not be discontented; for then are they truly monastics when they live by the labor of their hands, as did our Fathers and the Apostles. Let all things be done with moderation, however, for the sake of the faint-hearted” (RB 48: 7-9).
If there is much work to be done, Benedict called for an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality. However, each sister is to carefully consider what she can do in moderation. Our sisters brought their willing hands and hearts to husking the bounty of sweet corn. They weren’t alone!
As soon as the husking note was posted, sisters donned their aprons and gathered in the hallway filled with heaps of corn ready to be husked. The sound of husks ripping became a background to the sharing of stories and memories.
This is only part of the preparation of the sister’s work in preparing the sweet corn for freezing. Other sisters gently brushed the corn, washing the remaining silks from the ear and trimmed any damaged areas from the ears. Then the kitchen Sisters and staff steam the ears before the corn cutting ‘party’ in the evening.
The evening corn party finds sisters in every corner of the kitchen and serving hall! As the cutters trim the kernels away from the ear, other sisters carried away buckets of now empty cobs or began weighing the kernels into five pound tin pans and prepared them for the deep freeze. All sisters assisted in whatever way possible; from prioress to novice, helpful hands made quick work of the hundreds of ears. The work was accented with laughter, stories, and memories of our monastic works and ministries.
Thirty sisters gathered for the corn party! After 45 minutes of communal service, we had forty of the five pound pans and another three of the three pound pans…just over 200 pounds of sweet corn all steamed, cut, wrapped, and waiting for our kitchen folk to bring out a little taste of summer during our cold South Dakota winters. The sisters worked to clean-up the sticky kernels that seemed to spring all over the counters and tables during the corn cutting. When all the counters were shinny and the last trays had been sent through the dishwasher, our evening of service concluded with a sweet treat of ice-cream bars as a “thank you” for our shared labor, our family ministry to each other.
The tradition of working together to care for the needs of monastery continues. We invite you to join us in our lived tradition of mutual service, prayer, and laughter too.
Every year we celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel. This year marks the 67th year of our prayer and worship in this chapel dedicated to the praise of God. The dedication candles are lit, the sisters have gathered for statio, and our prayer of thanksgiving begins. But first, it behooves me to share the story of how the chapel was built from our sisters hopes and prayers, lead by Mother Jerome Schmitt, and told by our historians from a time much closer to celebration…
“…By far the crowning point of Mother Jerome’s external accomplishments was the erection of the magnificent Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel which rose steadily, stone by stone, throughout the difficult war and post-war years of 1946 to 1950 and was solemnly consecrated in the spring of 1950. The Chapel stands not only as a monument to the saintly Bishop through whom God called the Benedictines to Dakota but also as a living symbol of the faith of a community” (Travelers on the Way of Peace, 1955).
“There is one thing I ask of the Lord, to live in the house of the Lord.” ~ Benedictus Antiphon
The chapel’s very completion was an act of faith. It was built in the years after World War II; when building materials were both scarce and precious, M. Jerome and the contractors found a way through their trust in God. Bishop Martin Marty Memorial Chapel was completed and consecrated in the year 1950. The chapel has been filled with the voices of our sisters giving God praise since that day.
“…The construction, begun after frustrating delays, was nearing completion. With justifiable pride, she had watched the raising of the Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel which
now crowned the cluster of building on the western elevation of the city of Yankton. It was something that…she had dreamed about at a time when realization seemed impossible. But, there was the stone steeple, rising to a height of 187 feet, directing heavenward the thoughts of motorists on Highway 50. This house of God was both artistic and functional: it was an imposing work of stone in modified Gothic design, which could take its place among thee architectural masterpieces of Europe.
“…The Most Reverend William O. Brady, assisted by five bishops, four abbots, and about 180 monsignori and priests from the Midwest carried out the colorful and symbolic ceremonies, which set apart forever this building for the sole purpose of giving glory to God…Bishop Brady in his closing remarks paid tribute to the pioneer members of the community and all members who had given reality to a dream of raising a fitting monument to the Provident of God, “under the shadow of Whose wings” the community had prospered” (Sr. Claudia Daratschek, Under the Shadow of His Wings, 1971).
“This is God’s holy temple, and we are the living stones. Let us bow down in prayer, singing God’s praises.”
~ Benedictus Antiphon, Anniversary of the Dedication of Bishop Marty Chapel
Father Thomas explained some of the Church teaching on how churches are dedicated through a special ceremony. Then he shared some reflections on the meaning of this dedication for those who worship in those churches.
“The feast of the Dedication of a church is celebrated annually only in those church buildings which have been consecrated by a bishop. The dedication sets the building aside as a sacred, holy place which cannot be used for other purposes. Among other things, the building must be debt-free when dedicated, so most church buildings are not consecrated. The ceremony is one of the most beautiful of all the ceremonies of the Church…
…Also part of the ceremony is the blessing of the walls. They too are anointed with the Chrism Oil at twelve locations throughout the church building. The twelve locations represent the twelve apostles on whose foundations the Christian faith rests and are marked with a cross and candle (called the consecration candles). Traditionally, those candles are only lit on the anniversary of the dedication of the church building.
The ceremony of dedication has similarities to the Sacrament of Baptism, especially regarding the anointing and candles. Those entering the church through Baptism are also anointed as a symbol of their being set aside (dedicated) to and for God. Those baptized receive a candle representing the Light of Christ. They are to receive and be the Light of Christ to the world” (Father Thomas on the anniversary of the Dedication of Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel, 2014).
This dedication of a place apart for prayer alone also appears in the Rule of Benedict. In Chapter 52, Benedict orders that the Monastery have an Oratory for the monks’ and nuns’ Work of God, their life of prayer…
Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any sister who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another’s misconduct. And at other times also, if anyone should want to pray by herself, let her go in simply and pray, not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart…
Blessings to you,
Return to “One Heart and One Soul”
Pray for us during our time of retreat; we shall keep you in our prayers.
This week all the sisters of our community are gathering at the monastery for retreat. The sister who coordinates our on-going formation has set a week for conference retreat for our sisters. This calls us to pause and set aside time from our varying schedules due to their ministry and service in different works of the Church. This summer Father Jerome Kodell, OSB of Subiaco Abbey will be our retreat director. His conferences will focus on “Walking the Road of Faith”. He will be taking us into the Scriptures to see how God continually invites us into a journey of trust from the wilderness of Exodus to the Paschal Mystery of the Cross. For a little peek into his retreat conferences, Father Jerome wrote an article on a similar topic about listening for God and following His Call for Our Sunday Visitor.
Listen I (General Norms of our Federation) recognizes that “Benedictine formation is a lifelong process of daily conversion within a dynamic, monastic faith community. The entire community is responsible, under the direction of the prioress, for the ongoing formation of all sisters. The monastery fulfills this responsibility when it provides the environment for the sisters to share their life together in faith and to continue their own daily effort toward growth in Christ” (G111).
Listen II (Specific Norms of our Federation) reminds the prioress that “the Monastery Norms specifies the ways a monastery provides for the continuing spiritual development of its sisters, such as community renewal, annual retreats, days of recollection and other opportunities” (S129).
Our Listen III or Monastery Norms (specific to our monastic guidance) take all this into account and very simply states a list of items to support this continuing formation including “annual retreats” (M111.g). Simple…However, this yearly week of retreat is so important within our monastic life that it is even written into our contracts so we that may set at least a week aside for personal and private prayer, reflection, community, and Reconciliation.
Retreat allows for a deepening of relationship with God in the silence of our day (including meals). This silence is broken only by Father’s conferences and our celebrations of community prayer and Eucharist. However, the silence isn’t still, it is nurtured through our personal prayer and is active in our sisters’ personal reflection on the conferences. All this additional time in prayer reminds us to follow Saint Benedict’s injunction on the oratory:
“Let the oratory be what is is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any sister who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another’s misconduct. And that other times also, if anyone should want to pray by herself, let her go in simply and pray, not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart. She who does not say her prayers in this way, therefore, shall not be permitted to remain in the oratory when the Work of God is ended, lest another be hindered, as we have said” (Rule of Benedict 52).
Retreat Week Prayer & Eucharist (July 17-22):
(Saturday Lauds: 8:30AM)
(Tuesday Vespers & Communal Penance: 7:00PM )
Inspired to consider a retreat
to strengthen your relationship with Christ?
Blessings to you,
Return to “One Heart and One Soul”
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Pope Francis said, “The Eucharist affects the way we see others. In his life, Christ manifested his love by being with people, and by sharing their desires and problems. So, too, the Eucharist brings us together with others–young and old, poor and affluent, neighbors and visitors. The Eucharist calls us to see all of them as our brothers and sisters, and to see in them the face of Christ.” ~ February 14, 2014 General Audience.
God Bless You for Visiting!