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 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)

 

Thoughts on Perpetual Profession

It was not my plan to become a nun. I am a Protestant and to us religious life generally means a life spent in mission. I have come to believe that is still the definition of religious life. However what we are at Mt. Tabor is monastic and that is another way of living in mission.

I remember my first visit to Mt Tabor. It was for Thanksgiving dinner and during the meal the conversation turned to the progress of the Sister’s quest to become ecumenical. “That means I could live here” I remember thinking to myself. But then quickly thought, “But God has called me to mission in Maytown.” Isn’t it funny how we don’t see the forest for the trees.

After 5 ½ years of living this life I have come to see that God is continually growing us into holiness. For some that is marriage and a family. For some missionary outposts and service. For some, monastic life. Whatever the format, the goal is the same- – to know and love God.

So God draws me. This time, this place, these people. “For the rest of my life”. Those words hit my  youngest son hard. He always thought I would be moving back to Florida. But he is getting used to the idea. As I was driving my family to the airport to return to Florida I heard him say, “It’s been a heck of a weekend. My mom married God!”

Sister Kathy Curtis

ring

suscipe family

 

The Original Sr. Kathleen’s Blog

November 30, 2011

“Every day we have gives us another chance to become the real person we are meant to be.”  That is a quote from Joan Chittister’s commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict, Insight for the Ages and notably from Chap. 36:  The Sick.  I know Benedict is talking about the physical sickness of a person, but he likewise wants us to take into consideration the whole person.  I think of how each of us here at the monastery is striving in her own way to be the person God has created us to be each and every day.  Some days we do better than others at letting God be in charge.  Living in community can be a challenge and the calling to both private and community prayer each and every day is where it starts.

 

Chap. 37 The Elderly and the Young.  “Life is a series of phases, each of them important, all of them worthwhile.”    You know I think of where I am now and where I was five, ten, fifteen years ago and I am so grateful that each and every day I am challenged by my community, by the people I work with and the situations that come up to stop, look and listen to discover God’s presence in each of them.

Sr. KC Blogs too

Contentment

I was just sitting in the livingroom reading and a sense of complete contentment came over me. I have those moments from time to time-the sense of being right where you are supposed to be. Unfortunately they don’t happen often or last long enough. But maybe they aren’t supposed to last. Maybe they are sent by God as “breathers”. You know, short rests between tough chores.

Our garden is on one of the benches that strip mining decades ago left on our property. The monastery, chapel and dorms are on the next level up. To get from the garden to the monastery you either have to climb the 45 degree incline of  the hill or walk the 120 stair steps. I usually take the stairs because I find it easier. When I first started using the stairs I would have to stop and rest every 20 or so steps and take a “breather” to catch my breath and finish the climb. I think that is what these moments of contentment are…opportunities to stop, look around and be at peace before continuing on with the journey

Sometimes I think that I am in the wrong place, that God must have made a mistake about me being here at the Dwelling Place and then I find moments of contentment like I am experiencing this evening and I realize once again that I have listened and obeyed and God is pleased with me.

Contentment-God saying “Yes my child. Now keep going.”

 

BUT HE HAS ALREADY COME

Listening to the prayers and hymns lately during Office have really confused me. We keep talking about “Jesus coming”. The thing is, I’m pretty sure He already did. I know that Advent is a time to reflect on this great work of salvation from God but sometimes it feels like we are expecting some magical event to come fix the world so that we can live happily ever after…sort of a heavenly Disneyworld.

The truth is that God did send His son to live among us and to teach us the way to peace over 2000 years ago. These teachings are written down for us in the Bible. They are simple things; treat others like you want to be treated, choose love instead of hate, take care of the widow, the orphan, the outcast, love God more than yourself. There are more but you have already heard them. Heard them yes, but internalized them so that they are what we do without thinking? I’m afraid I fall way short of that reality. And you know you do too. So we look for the coming of Christ, again.

And I guess that is what we are praying and singing about, because we know deep in our hearts that what Jesus said and did when He walked this earth was the truth and maybe, just maybe, this time it will stick. O come, o come Emmanuel and remind us how to live in peace.

Namaste’

 

WHY ECUMENICAL?

Therefore we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.” RB Prol 45

St. Benedict wrote these words around 540 CE in his famous rule, setting out a format for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He was writing long before the Protestant Reformation at a time that “the church” was in its adolescence. He had found a way of life that mirrored Jesus’ teachings and he lived it until he took his last breath—reportedly standing with arms raised; chanting the Divine Office.

 Fast forward 1500 years to the hills of easternKentucky. My friend Sr. Kathleen had invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at theDwelling Place.  Curious and hungry for more than turkey and stuffing, I accepted and heard for the first time that the Sisters were in the process of becoming ecumenical. “That means I could come here.” I thought to myself and that night a seed that had been planted forty-five years earlier sent out its first small root soon to be followed by another and another and when, in May of 2009, my home was destroyed in a flood it seemed only logical that I come to stay with the Sisters until other arrangements could be made for my housing.

 On October 15th, I will make my First Profession of Monastic Promises—as a Presbyterian. I am delighted at the prospect and praying for guidance as I speak to my friends and family and anyone else that will listen about the privilege of becoming a Benedictine nun. There are many men and women worldwide who are Christ followers by call but not Roman Catholic. They would jump at the chance to have the support of a community of likeminded God seekers who want only to know and worship God in a nurturing environment. This is such a huge blessing and one I am sure more Protestants would take advantage of if it were offered to them.

 As Benedictine communities around the world look toward the future it is my prayer that they would consider opening their monasteries to their Protestant sisters and brothers, fulfilling Jesus’ prayer, “that they would be one as we are one.” John 17:22

Namaste’        Sr. KC