When I entered the community back in 2015, I received a gift from one of my sisters. It was a framed cross-stitch of a bicycle decked out in flowers that says, "It's all about the journey." I remember how it made me laugh back then; I have always had a keen focus on arriving at the destination, the end goal, the final product...with little appreciation for what comes in between.
So, I spent the past three weeks reflecting on the journey that has transpired over the past five years living this monastic life with these Benedictine women here in Erie. The reflection came through virtual presentations on the charisms and values of the life: prayer, ministry, good zeal, humility, obedience, among others. The reflection came through spending three days in the kitchen preparing meals for our community during our election weekend. The reflection came through learning who our new prioress would be. The reflection came through a directed retreat. The reflection came through the silence and solitude that followed the whole experience.
Needless to say, there has been much fodder for my reflection these past three weeks.
Did I learn anything?
Well, a few people have asked me about the big takeaways, awarenesses, learnings from the time.
The truth is, I am not sure that there was some big insight at all.
I think it was more of a deepening trust that this journey I am on is good, is holy, is worthwhile, is meaningful...all because this journey leads me closer and closer to Love. And what else really matters?
It meant that I felt a richer appreciation for the power and potential of commitment. I read these words from Sandra Schneiders, IHM one morning while I was in solitude in a hermitage:
By making a perpetual or lifelong commitment we take the whole of our life and being into our hands, temporally, as a concrete symbol of the qualitative whole to which we do not have access until our final breath, because it does not exist as an actual whole until then.
Clearly, this life is about a journey of daily commitment. And clearly, if I choose to make this commitment, the journey is only beginning for me. The commitment is felt in glimpses along the way, and then made whole and real in eternity.
In a presentation on fidelity and conversatio, the prioress from the Benedictines in Beech Grove, Indiana shared a line recited during the funeral liturgy for sisters in their community:
“Sister _____ has now completed her monastic profession.”
I was totally struck by this line. It totally stopped me. Maybe it's because five of our own sisters have completed their monastic profession since the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown.
Sister Kate Disbrow has now completed her monastic profession.
Sister Carol Ann McLaughlin has now completed her monastic profession.
Sister Anne McGreevy has now completed her monastic profession.
Sister Jerome Eustace has now completed her monastic profession.
Sister Mary Daniel Meahl has now completed her monastic profession.
They have given me glimpses into what it means to make a perpetual commitment. It is ongoing. They are still alive with us. Each sister's memory comes to prayer, to table, to the salt and pepper shakers she filled, to the clothing other sisters now wear, to the book I spotted in the library, to the towels she folded, to the harp she played. Their commitment to this monastic life is still so very real.
It gives me comfort to know that we are with these sisters in their eternal life; that my journey inches me there, too; that when I make a daily commitment to love and to others I, too, am offering my life to something bigger.
I am beginning to believe that this is a commitment and a journey worthy of their destination.
Let us walk in the holy presence.