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)