Oblates gathering in community

What is community?

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community 0 Comments

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

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community 0 Comments

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

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community, Living in Community 0 Comments

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 …

Five sisters gather as a community

“What do you do in the monastery?”

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

When guests or retreatants eat with the sisters for the first time they often ask what our day is like. They are curious about what goes on in a monastery and who these people are who live “separate from the world” as some would say. Some people who have never been to a monastery can’t imagine any earthly use for monasteries. They think monks and nuns are wasting their lives and trying to escape from a world that is desperately in need of their help. They suspect we are just “burying our talents” so to speak. In answer to the …

Sister Lynne, hoe in hand, working in garden, caring for the earth

Why care for the earth?

Lynne Smith, OSB Building Community 1 Comment

Why care for the earth? Monday morning, while I am working in the garden, a turkey hen appears from behind the compost pile, shepherding two very young chicks across the grass toward the garden. The hen stops and turns back when she sees me, but the chicks continue ahead and take cover under the rhubarb plants. As I walk away trying not to scare them, the mother clucks softly to her chicks and they come running out of the grass and into the woods with her. Tuesday morning I see them again from my office window as they enter the …

Sisters and guests seated around the dinner table

Being Christ to each other

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

Since Rosy’s homily on June 12, 2016, I’ve been pondering the meaning of the incarnation. The Rule of Benedict teaches us to see Christ in one another and to receive one another as Christ. It takes a lifetime to explore what it means to us that God came to us in the flesh. This past month I have had occasions to notice the significance of the incarnation in everyday life. Missionary Benedictine Sister Marie Songmun from the Daegu priory in South Korea visited us for a week in June. I feel a special kinship with her because she arrived here …