4 sisters gathered around deep dish pizza

Milestones

Rosy Kandathil, OSB Letters home, Living in Community 13 Comments

I was turning 40. There was no avoiding it, but for the weeks leading up to my birthday I tried not to indulge a creeping sense of dread. Although I could laugh over the prospect of having to check the “40 and over” survey box, I also felt anxious about crossing a threshold into middle age. There is something about milestones that force reflection, self-assessment, and in my case—mild depression. What had I accomplished with my life? I would be turning 40 at a monastery, with nothing to my name. All the accomplishments of a legal career built during my …

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 …

St Cloud Symphony Orchestra

Can beauty save the world?

Rosy Kandathil, OSB Letters home, Living in Community 5 Comments

Music filled the darkened performance hall. An attentive hush fell over the audience as the lush strains of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor drew us together in wonder, a fellowship of listeners. For a few brief and precious moments, all of these strangers in a room made up one marvelous whole, separate but together, rooted in place yet soaring at the same time. It was Saturday night, and Sister Tammy Shoemaker from Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, MN and I were treating ourselves to an evening out with the St Cloud Symphony Orchestra. As we took …

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 …

Mist rising over the prairie at Holy Wisdom Monastery

The evolution of vocation

Rosy Kandathil, OSB Letters home, Living in Community 8 Comments

James [not his real name] and I stood outside talking in low voices. The autumn air was cool, but our discussion was getting heated. We had just come out of a packed lecture hall where 3 speakers offered their thoughts on Calling in Today’s World: Multi-faith Perspectives. The diverse panel included Amy Eilberg, the first woman ordained a rabbi in Judaism’s Conservative Movement, and a teacher of inter-religious and intra-Jewish dialogue; Anantanand Rambachan, professor of religion, philosophy and Asian studies at St. Olaf College and a specialist in Hindu tradition and interreligious dialogue; and, Mark Unno, associate professor and religious …

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 …

Hamilton on Broadway - photo from New York Times post

Who tells your story?

Rosy Kandathil, OSB Letters home, Living in Community 2 Comments

As we headed back to Saint John’s University for the fall semester, two of my liturgy friends introduced me to their latest musical obsession. With the soundtrack from the Broadway musical Hamilton, playing from the car speakers, we geeked out over favorite lines, the brilliance of a particular rhyme and musical theme, the poignancy of each plot twist. Winner of 11 Tony awards (including best musical), a Pulitzer and a Grammy, the smash bio-epic about Alexander Hamilton and his fellow founding fathers is an acknowledged masterwork of storytelling, history, music and drama. Powered by a stunningly diverse cast, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, …

Rosy Kandathil shares reflections on the Rule of Benedict

Celibate intimacy – a real question

Rosy Kandathil, OSB Letters home, Rule of Benedict, Spirituality Articles 2 Comments

“How do you experience intimacy as a celibate?” She looked up at me quizzically from her notebook. The young woman’s question caught me by surprise. I had just finished an interview with Pastor Pete Scazzero at New Life Fellowship church in New York City, where I’d been a member for nine years before coming to Holy Wisdom Monastery. My life at the monastery remained a mystery to many of the people I served at the church, people I still cared deeply about. I hoped that my answers might help bridge the gap for this busy urban church where monastic life might …

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 …