My new job as Communications Director is a real challenge. It's not so much the job. I know that as I work into it, I'll get faster, handle things that, at present, are new and scary with greater confidence as they become familiar. I'm looking forward to that.
What is really the challenge is starting a new job and making it a part of my monastic life. It would be so easy to say , "I need to finish this announcement. I can't go to prayers." Self-discipline helps with that. I consciously ask myself, "Is it more important to finish this or to spend time with God, which is what you committed to?" I'm usually able to prioritize and prayers win.
What is even harder, in the whirl of the day, is not be dismayed by another request coming in, just as I see light at the end of the tunnel, and think I'll finally have a chance to get to grips with some planning. I have to remind myself that Christ is in the person making the request, and that this is a chance to see Him there, and to treat the person accordingly.
Even greater is the challenge to remember that my work is not taking me away from monastic life; it is the means through which I'm being asked to live my monastic commitment at this time. I'm not finding any of this easy, but I'm grateful that I don't, because I know that it is a blessing to be challenged like this. It's a great opportunity for transformation. I'm learning on the job a new way to be transformed. And, after all, I came here to be transformed.
During this dry summer I’ve become more and more aware of the preciousness of water. I spent some time at Mercy Retreat Center in Colorado Springs. And that gave me a firsthand view of the life giving power of water. Outdoor watering definitely happened as needed. However, instead of grass around three of the residential areas there was: 1) a tended vegetable garden; 2) a fenced in chicken area (home to 27 chickens giving organic eggs daily after munching on the weeds pulled from the nearby garden); and, 3) a large earthen area that created a permanent labyrinth.
Each of these seemed to say to me, “Look at me. I love giving life to you and creating quiet spaces that reveal the presence of the Holy One.”
There were the days when rain anointed everything. As I watched the first drop cling to the window, it quickly revealed its simple majestic essence. And when it did, gratefulness accompanied the droplet’s shout of “Let there be life!”
Immediately it brought to mind the words of Mahmûd Shabistari. “Penetrate the heart of just one drop of water, and you will be flooded by hundreds of oceans”. May oceans of gratefulness flood our hearts as we marvel at every drop of water that moistens our thirsty being this day.
It's two months since I made perpetual profession. I've started to miss my blog weekly posts so, as promised, I'm starting to contribute occasional blogs to our monastery blogsite.
It has been quite a two months! The plan was that I would stay in my job in the development office for at least the first year after making profession. This was all neatly thought out to give a sense of continuity as I adjusted to being perpetually professed. That was the plan.
The reality? Eight weeks to the day after I professed, I found myself in a new role as Director of Communications. I'm both nervous and excited: nervous because I have a lot to learn, and excited because I like new challenges, and also because it's a job that demands doing a lot of things I enjoy (writing, for instance).
There's a particular challenge that I want to consider today: how starting a new job relates to my monastic life. I'm in a professional role that is very demanding and, despite occasional bouts of anxiety, I feel very energized by what I'm beginning. Put together, those two factors could mean that my job becomes all-consuming. I have to keep bringing myself back to the purpose of my call, the reason why I'm here. Meeting work deadlines and learning new skills can't become the center of my life, because the center has to remain God, and my primary activity has to be seeking God. I'm starting to understand how this relates to the promise of stability. Aspects of my life are changing, and they matter. But there is a stable core from which everything else stems, and remaining aware of that, keeping it nourished and flourishing is an even more significant job than being Director of Communications. After all, if I lose sight of my true goal, God, I won't have anything worthwhile to communicate.
That which we humans appreciate, we magnify! When we love someone, not only do we praise the magnificence of the one loved but the lover herself seems to grow in beauty, in carefulness, in admirable qualities. When we love and praise the beauty of our Mother Earth, she responds to our love and care. She, then, is productive so that we can gather her fruits and be nourished. It is required that we return gratitude in the form of care. As we play in her waters and climb her mountains, harvest her forests, and dig in her quarries, we must renew what we might have spoiled so that her health is restored . We need to teach our children what things are more important than other things. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, but proper relationships to the Earth teach all of us that we have treated our Earth without care or reverence, without knowledge of her needs or cognizance of the complexity of our present troubles. Wendell Berry, contemporary farmer, philosopher, poet, essayist, novelist and social activist, puts it this way: “When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free”(“The Peace of Wild Things” in Green River Review, #1).
What would it take for all of us to look again upon our Earth as mother, sister, brother, and know that we are all children of this universe? That we need to change our lives from ones of exploitation to lives of explicit gratitude so that all might again rest in the grace of the world, and be free? What we humans appreciate, we magnify! “The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility,” writes Wendell Berry. “To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”
This blog is maintained by a group of Sisters at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. We try to post weekly and often succeed at that.
The opinions on this blog belong to individual writers and do not reflect any official position of the monastery. Please feel free to comment on any of the entries-- comments are moderated, but we'll publish any reasonable comment.