Chapter 58 of the Rule of Benedict outlines the procedures for receiving people who desire to enter into the monastic life, specifically for Benedict, the cenobitic community. The chapter does not sugarcoat the process; it’s not meant to be a breeze. The elder member of the community entrusted to journey with the seeker must lay out the struggles in a candid and sincere manner. The seeker must show a love for the Liturgy of the Hours, for obedience, and for the hardships that are inevitable on the path of a communal life focused in humility and prayer and conversion.
Next week I will begin a lengthy retreat meant to focus on this discernment. Usually Scholastics (members in first profession) would travel for this experience, but here we are, in a pandemic, getting a little more practice in our vow of stability by staying put at home. Yes, we will get some solitude, and we will still be in conversation with others from different communities discerning a perpetual commitment, as well as directors, through the gift of technology. But, as is the reality with all life as affected by Covid-19, it will be different.
Someone asked me this evening what I hope to get out of the experience. I hope to continue to be affirmed in what I already know—that I love this life because it calls me to wholeness; that I love the women who make up this community because they show me how to live loving, human lives; that I love living an intentional life rooted in prayer and contemplation. I hope to remember that all my passing doubts are just that—passing, that the “What-ifs” that I ask myself are important and worth considering, but they are not the be-all/end-all because in the end “All shall be well.”
There will be a bit of a lull in this blog while I take that time away—while I continue the lifelong practice of encountering the Divine. We recently finished reading the book Keeping Faith by Fenton Johnson. Toward the end, he writes:
This act of confidence in our human right and responsibility to shape the terms of our encounter with the divine, as well as confidence in the greater order in which our search takes place—we give the name of faith.
I loved that line, “...our human right and responsibility to shape the terms of our encounter with the divine.” That is what a mature community does, together. As someone in formation moves from one phase to another, the prioress always asks the question, “What is it that you wish to seek?” I wish to seek an encounter with the Divine supported by a group of faith-filled women who also continue to seek that holy encounter.
I think I am in a pretty good place.
Let us walk in the holy presence.
Fire at sunset