“The Good News Gospel”

Some of us at the monastery are studying the Gospel of Mark.  Mark calls it the “Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ”.   As we learn that Mark was writing to a people who were being persecuted for their faith we realize how important it was for them to be rooted firmly in that faith and to know Jesus personally.  Only then could they understand that the “good news” means that we are saved from death.  After this life – there is still life for us!  It is a life free from persecution, pain and suffering.   And this is ours, given by God who loves us unconditionally!

Most of us have heard these things all our lives.  But have we really heard them?

As we enter into this season of lent we are presented with an opportunity to ponder what this “good news” means for us today.  Many people live in a world of fear – fear of violence and physical harm, emotional abuse and worry about what the future holds.  The words “deportation” and “racism” bring new levels of fear and anxiety.  The media is especially good at keeping the negative emotions stirred up.

The good news of Jesus does not tell us that these difficult things will go away but that we are not alone in facing them.  When we say we feel all alone, God’s response is “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).  When we say I am afraid, God’s response is “I have not given you a spirit of fear” (II Tim. 1:7).  So if God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear why is it that we have it?

In a daily meditation book called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, we are reminded to keep our focus on Christ and his presence with us.  This helps us to be grateful for our many blessings even as we face great trials, and gratefulness blocks out fear.  Lent then can be a time to focus our lives on Christ, mindful of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Our Lenten resolutions can be ones that lead us to understand more deeply the good news of Jesus Christ and lead us to live in a spirit of gratitude.  We then can listen to what RESPONSE God is asking us to make in this time of uncertainty.  How are we being called to be neighbor to those around us who feel threatened?

We here at the monastery keep you all in our prayers, that you may know that you are loved by God, called by God and supported by God in this journey.  So then Easter will be celebrated with great joy and thanksgiving.  Peace and Easter blessings to all of you.    Sr. Eileen

 

CROCUS

Outside the front door to our residence hall, a phenomenon happens each year that stirs my spirit. It is the blooming of one particular crocus. It reminds me so much of what living in the mountains of eastern Kentucky is really about overcoming.

What makes it unique is that it is planted right next to the sidewalk of the residence hall beneath a large oak tree in compacted, rocky soil. These are the absolute worst conditions in which to grow a plant. Yet it has returned each of the eight years that I have lived in that building.

It is small. It blooms for maybe a week. It usually only puts out three or four white blooms and then disappears for another year.  And its appearance lightens my spirit.

This year the crocus came on February 10th and it has been more productive than usual, producing at least six blooms so far although it may be at the end of its season-just as we enter Lent.

The crocus reminds me that even when life is hard and conditions are rocky, I can still bloom. It reminds me that being a consistent presence may be exactly what someone else needs to get through a “rocky patch”. And it reminds me that even when something is no longer visible, it still lives.

I hope there is a crocus in your life. And that its short bloom leads you to the eternal God. Sr. Kathy C.

 

Where Am I Supposed to Be?

Discernment. Not a word you hear much, unless you live in a monastery that is. But in truth we do it every day.
Oatmeal or peanut butter toast for breakfast? Pull weeds or clean closets today? Scripture or the Rule for Lectio?

Those are everyday decisions you say, not discernment. Discernment is for “what does God want me to do with my life” things. We are to take everything to God. “Before you begin a good work, pray.” we are told in the Rule. Why is it that we think it is only the big things that we need to take to God? And if I don’t trust God with my breakfast choices, how can I believe I will listen and obey with life decisions-going to college, getting married, joining a religious order.

“But what I want for breakfast is personal preference”, the little voice in my head says. And making a lifelong commitment isn’t!?vows

I am rambling here because I have a friend who is in pain. A few years ago she discerned a life commitment, a call from God, and it doesn’t seem to be working out. And now she is questioning herself and wondering why God has led her down the wrong path. He must be testing her. What is she supposed to be learning from this experience? Discernment is a total in your head thing. For some of us, that is a dangerous place to be.

Our novice, Diantha, is scheduled to go through scrutiny on Mother’s Day. Scrutiny is when community members meet with the applicant and question her about her decision to join our community at a vowed member. It is a scary time. A time of questioning yourself, your call, yes even God. After my scrutiny, when the community agreed that I was ready to take the next step, I remember thinking, “well this is it. I know where I am supposed to be.” And now, four years later, at least once a week I ask myself what was God thinking bringing me to this mountain with these crazy women.

See even though I truly believe this is where God wants me to be, I question not God but my understanding of what I think I hear God saying to me. Which is why taking the small stuff to prayer can be as important as taking the big stuff. You create the habit of listening and trusting God in all the nooks and crannies of your life.

DSCF9465I am praying for my friend as she figures out what to do next. The great news is that she knows deep in her spirit that she is fully loved by God and she prays and listens. And God, well God has her in the palm of His hand.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 “Let’s talk about it” God whispers between the lines.

 

The Fullness of Time

SAM_1755

The Dwelling Place Monastery is located on twenty-five acres of eastern Kentucky hillside. We live in the Appalachian rain forest surrounded by nature. And as so often happens, I forget the gift our home is to us. But not today.

Usually I do my reading and meditating in my room after breakfast but today I decided to spend that time on the back porch. The temperature and the humidity were both low and I realized that even though it is still August, summer is fading fast so I should take advantage of the day.

Looking out, I noticed the hills across the valley from us are not as green as they were even last week. Sap is returning to roots. Leaves are losing chlorophyll and turning, if not brown, less green. Soon they will turn red and yellow and fall to the ground.

SAM_1750

Then my eyes were captured by a falling leaf. The startling thing was this leaf was perfect–green, whole, not diseased or damaged. It just let loose from the twig and drifted to the ground.

“How strange that it would fall before it’s time”, I thought.

“Who said it wasn’t it’s time?” came the unbidden reply.

SAM_1735

To everything there is a season.  We think that a season is so many months or so many years but really seasons are as individual as snowflakes. Careers end, young people die, green leaves fall. Were they cut short? Or did they come to their fullness of time? I have no idea.

I know that I spend time regretting the past or fearing the future instead of being present to what is happening in the moment. But every once in a while I am captured by a falling leaf and find myself in the season of now, in the fullness of my time. And I am blessed.

 

The Wisdom of the Younger

I like to be in charge. I grew up in a single parent home the eldest of four children and I won’t say I was bossy…ok I will say it. As the eldest, I was in charge when my mom wasn’t home and my management style relied a lot on being loud and pushy.

As an adult who found herself the single parent, I was in charge again and things didn’t change much. I guess you could say my family relationship motto is “My way or the highway”.

Now in community I find myself in another type of “family”. When I was a postulant, Sister Judy would say “think of us as a family” whenever I questioned roles, responsibilities or behaviors. “We love each other like family” she would say.

“A dysfunctional family” I would murmur to myself. You see I had decided early on that our community was dysfunctional because they didn’t do things the right way—my way. I found myself constantly challenging the authority of not only the Prioress but the older sisters too. “Why won’t they listen to me?” I moaned to my friends. I was having a hard time being the younger sister. But then I found a way to fix the problem through the Rule of Benedict no less.

Chapter Three of the Rule of St. Benedict is titled, Calling the Community to Counsel and it deals with how the Prioress, the undisputed head of the community, is to make decisions. Benedict says that the Prioress calls the community together and asks their advice. And here is the kicker—“the youngest first”.

So as the newest member of the community, I was duty bound to follow the Rule and show the older sisters how things should be done. Fortunately, we all survived my novice year. Unfortunately, my pride suffered greatly. Who knew that the brilliant ideas I had about this or that had already been tried and discarded? Why older sisters of course because they were the ones who tried them.

After living the Rule for a while now, I have come to understand that what Benedict doesn’t say in the Rule is as important as what he does. I think the unspoken truth of letting the younger go first is that maybe after they have had their say, there might be room in their head for someone else’s opinion.

So now when we are called to Chapter I say my piece and then listen to the other sisters. And try not to plot my takeover. I guess I am still a work in progress. Thanks be to God!

Sister Kathy Curtis (aka KC)

 

Ferverino

We have recently celebrated Sr. Kathy Curtis’ final profession!  What a joyous celebration!   The reading chosen for the occasion was taken from Sr. Joan Chittister’s commentary on the Rule of Benedict, chapter 58 “The Procedure for Receiving Members”.  She states that “Benedictine life is rooted in three dimensions:  commitment to a community, fidelity to a monastic way of life and obedience… We are to be totally open to the constantly emerging challenges of the God-life within us and …learn to see the globe through eyes softened by the Gospel…  We are to see change and challenge in life as God’s voice in our ears.”

All that sounds like quite a mouthful!  However, when I think of what it means to commit to be faithful I realize that applies to all ways of Christian living.  We’re there for each other through the hard times – when the water pipes freeze and break, when trees fall on buildings, when cancer is diagnosed (events that occurred this past winter!).  But we’re there for the good times too.  Spring does come.   Winter is over and repairs are completed.  Friends come to celebrate and flowers bloom.   Our response to these things is our openness to the God-life within us.

And so we do learn to see things with new eyes – eyes that are softened by the Gospel.  This is our journey of conversion.   It’s our daily striving to live the Gospel message a little better; to change our harsh ways, to respond to someone else’s need when we would rather not be bothered.  This past winter when we were all snowed-in at the monastery, Sr. Kathy Curtis reminded us that “patience is not just the ability to wait but how we behave while we’re waiting”!  And that too is part of the conversion process.  We learn to change our thinking from competition to “how can we work together?”  Instead of issues being either black or white we learn there is a gray area.  And so we grow in unity with others.

Life is messy!  But together we journey, loving and caring for each other.  Congratulations Sr. Kathy!  And blessings on you as you continue your journey with us.

Eileen

Eileen & me