Endings/Beginnings

Rosy Kandathil, OSB A Benedictine Sojourner's Journey, Living in Community 2 Comments

I’ve never liked endings. I often cling to the last pages of my favorite books, deliberately reading slowly just to wrangle more time with a beloved character. But no matter how I try to delay, there is no escaping the inevitable. From the beginning, the final page of the story always looms ahead, promising an unavoidable return trip back to my own real world. The final short story that Gregory the Great recounts of Benedict in the Dialogues is essentially an epilogue, set long after the holy man’s death. The scene opens on a deeply disturbed woman who, having lost …

Eating together

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“Wow. There they are,” I crowed to myself as I came into the kitchen. Every time I come to a monastery meal and recognize the vegetables as the ones I picked from the garden, I experience a thrill. After months of working in the garden, tilling the soil, planting seeds, learning the difference between weeds and plants, paying attention to how much water the plants were getting and impatiently waiting for the first crop—a season of harvest has begun.  As the summer progresses, there are green beans that hang from the vine, squash and zucchini, kale and cabbage, broccoli and …

Art and music in the monastic tradition

Rosy Kandathil, OSB A Benedictine Sojourner's Journey, Benedictine Bridge, Living in Community, Monastic Life Leave a Comment

What is the bond that links monastic tradition and the creative arts? The concept of withdrawal from society is central to the tradition of monasticism, a term derived from the Greek monos which means a solitary person. Yet paradoxically monasteries have been fertile hotspots for literature, music and visual art, often functioning as a hub for the nurture and preservation of creative arts down through the ages. Hildegard of Bingen (left), was a 12th century Benedictine abbess, mystic, artist and composer. This icon, created for the sisters by Peter Pearson, graces the wall at Bingen House, Holy Wisdom Monastery. Christian …

Gregory the Great’s Benedict: A Pastor for the Ages

Rosy Kandathil, OSB A Benedictine Sojourner's Journey, Living in Community 1 Comment

For me, one of the great pleasures of living at Holy Wisdom is its library. I often wander through the stacks, overflowing with titles that promise wisdom and spiritual riches to readers, futilely wishing that I had another several lifetimes to read them all. Recently, I found a treasure trove in Gregory the Great’s Dialogues (Part Two)— a 6th century record of 36 short anecdotes highlighting Benedict’s miracles and holy life as retold by his own monks. Although I’ve spent the last nine months as a Benedictine Sojourner at Holy Wisdom, these narratives offer a fresh revelation of the man …

Finding life among weeds

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I am not what anyone would call a gardener. The reports of my ability to kill or seriously harm innocent household plants are absolutely true. So it should surprise no one that as my time in the monastery gardens has increased along with the spring temperatures, my work there is primarily taken up by a task that matches my gifts: weeding. For a life-long city-dweller like me, however, even weeding requires education and constant supervision. Usually this thankless task falls to Sister Lynne Smith, director of formation and passionate gardener: “Is this a weed, Lynne?” “Yes. You can pull it …

Easter's 50 days: the stages of joy

Rosy Kandathil, OSB A Benedictine Sojourner's Journey, Living in Community 2 Comments

I have wondered why our church elders prescribed a full 50 days to celebrate Easter. For most of my life, Easter lasted one day. We repeated “Christ is risen! Alleluia!” with all the joy we could muster, and then went home to eat a nice meal with family and friends. What did we need another 49 days for? I was admittedly distracted as I made my way to the monastery for morning prayers. It was the fifth Sunday morning of Easter, and I was scheduled to lead prayers in the oratory. I kept my head down, intent upon arriving a …

Stirring the Waters of Baptism

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From my office window, I have a view of a small baptismal font. It stands outside without any fanfare, catching rainwater on most days and occasionally serving as a birdbath for feathered locals. It’s not the font that most people associate with Holy Wisdom Monastery. That one is upstairs on the main level and immense. The musical trickling of its waters as it gently overflows is the only sound you will hear in the monastery on quiet weekdays. Its granite depths are cleverly designed with an infinity edge so that it appears to have no bottom, endlessly reflecting sunlight that …

Post-resurrection epiphanies: the elusive Christ

Rosy Kandathil, OSB A Benedictine Sojourner's Journey, Living in Community 4 Comments

They tell me it’s spring here in Wisconsin, but I’m having trouble seeing it. I am impatient for the riotous blooms of the season, trees full of swaying green leaves and sunshine, warm breezes carrying the sweet fragrance of life. You know, spring. Instead, I’m greeted in the mornings with a blast of frigid air as I make my way to the monastery, frost-covered grass crunching disconsolately beneath my feet. Sitting at my desk writing today, all I can see from my windows are bare brown branches stretching into the grey sky.  Blech. When will spring be here?  Where is …

Lectio Divina: Learning to read with heart

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I have always been a passionate reader. An early childhood memory is of me lugging home as many books as I could check out on my public library card, hoarding the biggest ones like treasures. It wasn’t long before my habit was common knowledge; the librarians would wink at each other when I came in. I read passionately because in many ways, as a child, I was seeking an escape from reality. In my daily life, I was awkward and helpless, a shy brown girl from Brooklyn who felt powerless to change anything about her circumstances. But in books, everything …

The pain of Lent: Christ in discernment

Rosy Kandathil, OSB A Benedictine Sojourner's Journey, Living in Community 2 Comments

Two cardboard boxes at our house have started to slowly fill with items for a local charity. In many households, it is a Lenten practice to examine overfull closets and donate what isn’t needed. But initially, I mourned to myself: “I’ve got nothing to give.” Only six months ago, I had carefully packed and shipped five boxes from NYC, just enough (I hoped) to carry me through the Sojourner experience. The process of moving, of picking up my life and relocating, forced difficult choices. How many of these heavy books do I really need? Which of my favorite clothes can …