Two icons depicting the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah: Abraham & Sarah carrying food and drink and three guests seated at table

Welcoming the future

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community, Spirituality Articles 3 Comments

In preparing some thoughts on hospitality to share with our Benedictine Women of Madison Board, I came across an article Sister Joanne Kollasch wrote in 1984 for a meeting of the American Benedictine Academy. She includes a quote from a conference by the late Demetrius Dumm, OSB, a monk and Scripture scholar from St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA. It sent my thinking about hospitality in a new direction. Here is what Demetrius Dumm said: In Scripture, the entertaining of guests and the entertaining of strangers is the entertaining of mystery; this is to make room for that which is not …

Susan Pearson receives a hug from Sister Mary David Walgenbach with Sister Lynne Smith standining close by.

Providing opportunities for transformation

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community 2 Comments

Over the years when people have worked with the sisters on marketing and getting the word out about the monastery, they often ask, “What is your product?” They are trying to help us articulate clearly the benefit the monastery provides to the public. It is a good marketing question, but it has never felt as if it quite fits what the monastery does. At the recent oblate retreat when the oblate candidates were sharing their personal rules and their experiences during the candidate year, it came to me that the “product” the monastery provides is transformed people. Actually that is …

figure kneeling in prayer with Holy Spirit hovering above

The power of God’s sustaining presence

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Homilies, Living in Community Leave a Comment

We enter into Holy Week with millions of people suffering in Syria, in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and so many other places in our world. As I reflected on Jesus’ suffering on the cross, I wondered what help and hope the crucifixion and resurrection gives us. I find that hope and help in the silent presence of God even in the midst of suffering. Often it is only in looking back that we can see that Presence in times of suffering. Occasionally we experience this sustaining Presence in the moment.   _______________________________  Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday homily                                         Lynne Smith, OSB …

Oblates gathering in community

What is community?

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People often come to the monastery looking for community. Community is a slippery word that is used with a wide range of meanings and lots of unspoken expectations. We talk about community around the monastery because community is central to Benedictine life. But the question remains: what is community? We probably each have different understandings and expectations of what it means. I recently came across one definition that seems simple and helpful. It doesn’t say everything, yet it is a place to start. Charles Vogl, in his article, “Behind every strong leader is a strong community,” defines community as: “a …

Spiritual hunger – growing together

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community, Uncategorized 1 Comment

Today, people young and old, are turning to Benedictine communities in their search for a balanced, meaningful way of living. Thanks to the wisdom of the Rule of Benedict, tested and lived out over time, Benedictine sisters embrace a way of life that provides for contemplation and service, meaning and growth in the company of others. Most Benedictine communities have flourishing oblate communities and retreatants who come for prayer, silence, spiritual mentoring and the presence and intimacy of community. In a blog about the new monasticism and the spiritual hunger of young adults, Jamie Manson notes that young adults are …

Dear Mr. President - a letter from religious leaders

Leadership for these times

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What kind of leadership is called for in these times? Several recent experiences come together to shape an answer to this question: The uneasy transition to new national leadership in our country A book shared by Maureen Van Dinter, a member of our Benedictine Women of Madison Board of Directors at a recent board meeting, titled The Servant Leader, by Blanchard and Hodges The recent publication of a Joint Letter to President Trump from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) The recent Statement by Major Christian Organizations on President-Elect Trump’s …

The creative tension of opposites

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I recently read a quotation on creative tension that has me intrigued. It was entitled: The Tension of Opposites and the Power of Love: “… all our lives we are faced with the task of reconciling opposites which, in logical thought, cannot be reconciled… How can one reconcile the demands of freedom and discipline in education? Countless mothers and teachers, in fact, do it, but no one can write down a solution. They do it by bringing into the situation a force that belongs to a higher level where opposites are transcended—the power of love… Divergent problems, as it were, …

Great love and great suffering

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community, Spirituality Articles 8 Comments

The people of east Aleppo have been in my prayers and on my mind this fall as they undergo the siege of their city. They are especially on my heart because a couple of years ago, a husband and wife and their triplet sons worshipped with us at Sunday Assembly for some months after they had fled Aleppo. In one conversation I had with Nael, he said, “Pray for us, the Syrian people. We don’t understand why this fighting is going on. We want to live in peace.” The images in the news of the destruction of the city keep …

Sunrise over the prairie grasses at the monastery

Witnessing to light and hope

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Homilies, Living in Community 2 Comments

Homily and reflections before and after the 2016 national elections “The human race is facing a darkness that is pervasive and frightening…endless wars, climate change, rampant disease, corporate power, increasing poverty and natural disaster.” Edwina Gateley shared these thoughts in an essay for All Saints Day in 2014.* She went on to say that it seemed to her that “we are…in the midst of a global dark night.” Like Daniel in his day (see Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18), many people today see visions of disaster based on the coming election, climate change, the spread of ISIS, violence in our cities. It …

Perspective from monastery hilltop overlooking prairie, Lake Mendota and Madison in the distance.

Gaining perspective in contentious times

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community 6 Comments

I was talking with a leader of a class being held at the monastery last week. While he was on break, he spoke about the reasons he likes coming to the monastery. He said coming to the monastery helps him gain perspective on his work. The view from the top of the hill of the capital and downtown Madison represents this change of perspective. He teaches at the university and finds it helpful to come across the lake periodically to step back and look at his life and work from another viewpoint. The sisters have been reading Joan Chittister’s commentary …