Side by Side
As I recently walked onto our choir for Vespers I just had to smile. Side by side was our standing fan towering over a diminutive space heater. Nothing remarkable about that, it would seem, for we are now into September with its maddening autumn weather ... one day boiling hot, “Indian summer;” then rainy and cool, with a damp chill settling into the house. A fan is welcomed on the former day, but the heater comes to the rescue the next day, as a sister tries to finger her beads while shivering. But I had to smile—what an image of community life! One sister goes into the community room for recreation and is boiling hot. She opens the window wide, really wide. The next sister comes into the community room sporting a sweater and closes the window. Brrrr!
Yes, side by side, we “rub elbows” day in and day out. It can be quite a challenge. We come from different backgrounds, different life experiences, each one with her unique gifts and, to be realistic, her own short comings. It is no small thing to learn to give and take; to forgive and to have patience; to appreciate the gift and compassionate with the weakness. But this is the great ideal of the Rule of Saint Augustine which we follow: “to live harmoniously in our house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.”
To achieve so lofty a goal we are helped by the leadership of our Prioress,who is elected for a three-year term. She herself is in a role of service, called to promote our contemplative life and regular observances, to “foster the unity of charity.” But the rest of the community, by their willing obedience to all that the Prioress asks, also foster that unity. We learn to set aside preferences and focus on the common good. To listen, to discuss, but also to yield to, and accept, the wishes of the Prioress.
As these things go, we recently held an election for Prioress and are happy to announce that Sr. Theresa Marie will be fulfilling this community service until September 2022. That may seem a long time away, but how quickly the days go by in a monastery! So we pray that she will have every needed grace as she undertakes this new and demanding duty. May Our Lady, the true Mistress of this Monastery, keep Sister under her mantle, and all the rest of us with her, amen!