Sister Joanne and retreatant looking together at prayer books used for daily prayer

Building community through shared Benedictine values

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

Sister Joanne will be quick to tell you that Benedictine spirituality does not exist in the abstract. It only comes alive as people embody it. It is learned and passed on person to person through relationships.

Sister Joanne introduces retreatant to prayer books used for daily prayer

Sister Joanne introduces retreatant to prayer books used for daily prayer

Having lived this life for over sixty years, Joanne embodies the Benedictine values of the monastery in her unique way. Joanne is passionate about passing on the Benedictine way of life to everyone with whom she comes into contact. You have probably experienced the values of hospitality, respect, simplicity and beauty through Joanne. She embodies Benedictine values in the way she greets guests, in her formation work with our Benedictine Sojourners, Denise and Paz, in the way she decorates spaces in the monastery and through her conversations with guests, friends, coworkers, volunteers and community members.

Those of you who have been around the monastery for a while embody Benedictine values in your lives. Benedictine spirituality comes alive in you as you offer hospitality to guests, work for human rights, walk with ex-offenders, or care for your children.

One of the pillars of Benedictine life is common dialogue. The primary way we sisters pass on our mission, vision and values is face to face through conversation and dialogue. This kind of conversation happens informally before or after Sunday Assembly, at the social time during an oblate retreat, working on the prairie with Friends of Wisdom Prairie or around the dining table with retreatants. It happens more formally when we lead an oblate retreat as we will do in February or when we lead a retreat or offer input at a Sunday Assembly meeting.

This year, we are beginning a new initiative to be intentional about providing formation in Benedictine values for the communities and people associated with the monastery. The question we want to address is: “How can we live more faithfully the spirit and values of the Rule of Benedict in our prayer and work? We seek to stimulate all of us involved at the monastery to think, speak and act with a greater awareness of the Benedictine spiritual foundation that supports what we do. This foundation is expressed in our statement of the mission, vision and values of the monastery. Upcoming opportunities already planned include the following:

  • Lenten Lunches, Wednesdays, February 17 – March 16, 2016, will be an exploration of forgiveness in the context of relationships informed by Benedictine values. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us, yet we often find it difficult to forgive ourselves and to extend God’s forgiveness to others. Coming to forgiveness is a transformative process arrived at over time. Benedict’s call for stability, respect for others, conversion of life and humility can help us in building relationships and coming to forgiveness and a Christ-consciousness in our lives. Oblate Claudia Greco and I will offer input, discussion and interactive experiences at the lunches. This is an opportunity to explore Benedictine values.
  • Mike Crawford from Sunday Assembly is coordinating a Wisdom Read for families in Sunday Assembly. He and the people working with him hope it will spark conversations between parents and children around the value of hospitality.
  • At the Sunday Assembly meeting on February 21, 2016 we will hold a brief conversation on hospitality. The Sunday Assembly new member orientation committee will also propose opportunities for conversation around Benedictine values during Lent.
  • Oblate Carole Kretschman and I are working on a program related to Benedictine values to be offered later this spring for Sunday Assembly members and others.

People at the monastery often express the desire for input from the sisters. Joanne, Mary David and I will lead the February oblate retreat on the theme: “A Call to Justice: Benedictine Perspectives on Listening, Right Relationships, and Public Witness.” Rosy and I share insights and reflections on living this Benedictine life in our monthly blog posts, Letters Home and Building Community.

I feel excited and energized to be working with so many of you who are living the Benedictine values in your unique ways. I look forward to many rich conversations over the course of the winter and spring. I hope you will enter the dialogue.


Follow this link to read additional blog posts from Lynne in the series titled Building Community.

Comments 1

  1. Dear Sister Lynne; My name is Deborah Nelson and I am hoping to be accepted as an Oblate with my year of discernment beginning in April 2016. I would very much like to attend the February Oblate retreat on the theme of “A Call to Justice”. Sylvia Adrian, a dear friend and Oblate, thought it might not work out, as I have not yet even begun my years work.
    However I have a very special interest in social justice. I worked for 1 year at the Dane County Public Defenders Office, while doing the para legal program at MATC. I was laid off from the job due to budget cuts, but also because I made “too many” people eligible for the legal services they so desperately needed. If a person owned a $500. car, and had practically nothing else to their name, they would be found ineligible because of the financial criteria that had been set 25 years ago. I also was seen comforting and touching the hands of prisoners. Jails and prisons in this country, even in Dane County, are appalling. These conditions literally contribute to the broken and fragile state of the people housed in them.
    If there is any way that I could attend this retreat I would be so very grateful; but I understand that I have not yet studied and earned the honor of being an Oblate.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Sincerely, Deborah

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