The Sisters who live at the motherhouse, Saint Benedict’s Monastery, and also those who live at our retirement facility, Saint Scholastica Convent, are organized into small groups, which we call living groups. Some are housed in larger buildings and occupy a particular floor or portion of a floor; others, like the St. Wendelin group, live in separate accommodation on or near the monastery grounds.
St Wendelin’s isn’t a pretty building; in fact, it started life as a slaughterhouse! However, I’ve been struck on a number of occasions this summer by what a charming picture it presents, set in a green lawn and surrounded by flowers like those in this photograph taken by Sister Janine Mettling.
Walks are my time for personal prayer and meditation. As I’ve passed St. Wendelin’s, it’s provide with me with a real source of inspiration for going deeper. No, it’s not a great piece of architecture, but the Sisters who live there love it, not for its appearance, but because it’s the place that is their home and all that implies. That’s an important point. As Benedictines, we are urged not to become attached places or things but we also make a promise of stability, which means rooting ourselves in a place and way of life and doing our best to make that place better by our presence.
So what’s the difference between love and attachment? I guess I see the flowers as a symbol of the love the Wendelin Sisters have for their home and their desire to share what it means to them with others, in the sense that planting the flowers will bring joy into other people’s lives (e.g. mine!) That’s love. Attachment would be if they “owned” the flowers, laid claim to them and didn’t want them to be for anyone else. That’s a real lesson for me: we should never be afraid to love but always in a way that is inclusive; if love is exclusive, it’s selfish, and is a really a form of attachment and possessiveness.
Finally, these flowers have shared a lesson with me about simplicity. They aren't rigidly arranged. They may well be carefully planted but when you look at them words and phrases like ‘profusion’, ‘riot of color’, 'exuberance’ come to mind. But it’s exuberant simplicity. All I can say is that they’re simple and they’re beautiful and, for lots of reasons, I’m grateful for this simple, but profound, gift of beauty.
Karen Rose, OSB