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 …

Sisters at prayer (Photo © Andy Manis)

Benedictine life: new ways of valuing persons, things and time

Joanne Kollasch, OSB Living in Community, Rule of Benedict, Spirituality Articles 1 Comment

What contributions has Benedict made to society?—a presentation by Joanne Kollasch, OSB to the Benedictine Women of Madison Board of Directors, July 26, 2016. I owe a great deal to Mary Collins, OSB for my reflections with you today. Scholars may continue to argue whether Benedict was counter-cultural or not. Settling this question doesn’t really matter so much because, from the beginning, the monastic way of life involved a re-valuation of persons, things and time, according to a set of standards that are different from those of the dominant culture. Monastic re-valuation can be clearly seen in the Rule of …

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 …

Monastic profession in a time of violence, division and fear

Rosy Kandathil, OSB Letters home, Living in Community 4 Comments

Openness to change is a cornerstone of Benedictine life, reflected in the vow of conversatio morum, traditionally understood as “conversion to the monastic way.” Conversatio points Benedictines to an openness of the heart, a commitment to conversion—a deep-seated orientation toward the Spirit’s call. At its best, Benedictine life is a fluid and flexible form, inspired by a 1500-year history and the examples of those who have gone before. Last week over 100 monks, sisters, nuns, oblates and students of theology attended the 2016 Monastic Institute hosted by Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, MN. Reflecting on the theme …

Lector with out-stretched arms leading the worshiping community at Holy Wisdom Monastery.

A passion for wisdom

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

“Wisdom has built her house and spread her table.” —Proverbs 9 This is a phrase we sing frequently as an antiphon in our Liturgy of the Hours. It was also the text chosen for an address, which we re-discovered recently, by Sister Donald Corcoran, OSB, CAM. As a member of our Ecumenical Board in the 1990’s, Sister Donald spoke at the blessing of the renovated monastery building (now our Retreat & Guest House) on May 21, 1995. I found wonderful connections between Sister Donald’s comments and the ways we continue to embody a passion for wisdom here at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Benedict …