Denise, sponsors and the Sunday Assembly community gather at the baptismal font for Denise's baptism (photo by Sandy Wojtal-Weber)

Baptism—homeward bound

Denise West, OSB Far from home, Living in Community 12 Comments

The last time I blogged, my mind was focused on all that I’m losing as I transition back to New York-the community, the setting and my daily experiences. I’m still keenly aware of these things. As I go through my daily routine I’m checking off a mental list of lasts. Last time to work outside on the grounds with Paul; last chapter meeting; leading prayer for the last time. To my relief, now I’m also thinking about firsts, and the ways I’ve been enriched by this six-month journey. I have new spiritual relationships, new friends, a wonderful monastery where I’ll …

dark clouds at sunrise

A day is coming

Denise West, OSB Far from home, Living in Community 14 Comments

On Ash Wednesday, we had a reading from Joel: Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of God is coming, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! —Joel 2:1-2 I know how that feels, I thought. A day is coming near to me, a day of darkness and gloom…the day I have to leave Holy Wisdom Monastery and return to New York City. The thought of it stirs fear in the pit of my stomach. The notes in my study bible say that this imagery of darkness, …

Three women standing by a stream in the winter

A new thing

Denise West, OSB Far from home, Living in Community 6 Comments

How much longer is your stay? Have you gotten what you expected out of your sojourner experience? Now that it’s been almost four months (two more to go), I’m getting this question a lot. As for the second question, the answer is a resounding Yes. This experience has been transforming in the ways that I’d hoped. Paz and I both left Wisconsin for Christmas, and it was the first time being away from the monastery community. I wondered how much of the way I’d been living would ‘stick’ once I went out into the world. Would I resort to my …

Awakening to Advent

Denise West, OSB Far from home, Living in Community 13 Comments

There is such a thing as an Advent calendar, which counts down the days until Christmas. During Advent, Christians look forward to the birth of Jesus. Until recently, this was pretty much the sum total of my understanding of Advent. Observing the season is not part of my tradition–growing up, I didn’t even go to church for Christmas or Easter. If Advent was observed at my current home church, I must not have been tuning in. This year signs of Advent are unmistakable. Paz and I helped create the Advent wreath for Sunday Assembly, we set out the Advent prayer …

Maple leaves blazing red in fall

Glory days

Denise West, OSB Far from home, Living in Community 4 Comments

One of the hopes I have for my six months at Holy Wisdom is to deepen my relationship with God or, more precisely, to find out what I mean when I said I believe in “God.” Though I’ve been on a path seeking God for a number of years, I have gotten to a point where I realize that I am too often trying to generate a sense of God, rather than having a conviction of God’s presence. Each day after morning liturgy, the sisters meet for chapter. When I first came as a potential sojourner in July, I was surprised and delighted …

Will this experience change me?

Denise West, OSB Far from home, Living in Community 12 Comments

I brought many questions with me as I left New York to begin my 6-month stay as a Benedictine Sojourner. The main one: “Will this experience change me?” I desperately wanted to change, to grow and to live more fully. Many things are different about life here. I no longer live alone, a chef cooks delicious gourmet meals twice a day, and I spend a good portion of my time on manual labor like working in the garden and washing dishes after dinner. However, none of this felt completely unfamiliar. But one practice of the Benedictines that I had absolutely …

My experience exploring Benedictine Sojourners

Denise West, OSB Benedictine Bridge, Far from home, Living in Community 1 Comment

What might you experience in the process of exploring our Benedictine Sojourner program? Denise, who will become a Benedictine Sojourner this fall, reflects on her journey: Originally I was just looking for a one- or two-month stay at a monastery over the summer. Instead, I found the Benedictine Sojourner program at Holy Wisdom and knew instantly that I wanted to find out more. I sensed from the website that this was a vibrant community—alive with a spirit I longed to feel. Over the Exploring Benedictine Community Retreat weekend I was of course a little anxious. But I felt very at ease when we sat …