Ask a Sister About …Perspective

St. Scholastica's Student Newspaper
The Cable
Photo credit to newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com

Photo credit to newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com

by Sister Edith Bogue, O.S.B.

"Shouldn't you be studying?" says the voice of our inner judge. Finals week creates a frantic myopia. Students' worlds are reduced to "three exams, two papers, a presentation" and some due dates. Faculty count the time until December 27 when grades are due. Even holiday preparations become annoying distractions amidst the overwhelming pressure of Getting It All Done.

St Benedict seems to side with our inner task-master. His Rule requires that a trusted monastic "go about the monastery... and see that there be no lazy sister who... is not only unprofitable to herself but also distracts others." Sick or frail sisters are given some lighter duties to "keep them from idleness" (Ch 48). Benedict had compassion on sleepyheads, instructing the monks to chant the early-morning psalm in a "slow and protracted way" to give them a chance to arrive. But others, he strictly corrects: monks who came late do dinner received no wine (Ch 43). His admonition to "Keep death daily before your eyes" reminds them that they face an unknown due date (Ch 4). St Benedict doesn't seem much better than Nunzilla.

If you ask a Benedictine sister, she is likely to put a different spin to the strictness. "Benedict calls our monastery a school for the Lord's service," she might say. "Getting good at anything takes discipline - ask an athlete or a musician. We can't have communal prayer without the community!" She will go on to describe the contemplative dimension. Being there - "getting it done" - is just the start. Participating mindfully creates the contemplative dimension.

"Interesting," I hear you saying, "but what does this have to do with me? My tasks DO have an end. Students take exams; faculty turn in grades. Then we go home, turn the page, and prepare for a fresh start."

Benedictines take a longer view; real growth takes time. Even an external practice, like singing or reading scripture out loud, takes time to learn. Many newcomers are anxious, and some don't do very good at first. After a few years of listening and practicing, they have assimilated the sound of the community. None of them can describe the day she learned to sing, or to read with expression and clarity, but most can tell you dozens of little things they learned by reflection and attention, day by day.

Try this contemplative Benedictine view for yourself. Before selling your textbooks or filing away the exams, take 15 minutes to reflect. What was new, intriguing, challenging in this course? How have you changed since it began? This especially about what you want to carry forward in the next semester; we often focus on the ways we fall short of our hopes rather than the ways - sometimes unexpected - we have grown.

"What make this BENEDICTINE?" It weaves together two themes of Benedictine life: constant watching to notice God's presence and action ("seeking God") and belief that we encounter God in and through the people and situations of our everyday lives. The Sisters are slow to turn the page or close the book: there's always the chance of noticing or understanding just a little more, growing in wisdom by those small contacts with the divine. Look for it: there's something there for you too.by Sister Edith Bogue, O.S.B.

"Shouldn't you be studying?" says the voice of our inner judge. Finals week creates a frantic myopia. Students' worlds are reduced to "three exams, two papers, a presentation" and some due dates. Faculty count the time until December 27 when grades are due. Even holiday preparations become annoying distractions amidst the overwhelming pressure of Getting It All Done.

St Benedict seems to side with our inner task-master. His Rule requires that a trusted monastic "go about the monastery... and see that there be no lazy sister who... is not only unprofitable to herself but also distracts others." Sick or frail sisters are given some lighter duties to "keep them from idleness" (Ch 48). Benedict had compassion on sleepyheads, instructing the monks to chant the early-morning psalm in a "slow and protracted way" to give them a chance to arrive. But others, he strictly corrects: monks who came late do dinner received no wine (Ch 43). His admonition to "Keep death daily before your eyes" reminds them that they face an unknown due date (Ch 4). St Benedict doesn't seem much better than Nunzilla.

If you ask a Benedictine sister, she is likely to put a different spin to the strictness. "Benedict calls our monastery a school for the Lord's service," she might say. "Getting good at anything takes discipline - ask an athlete or a musician. We can't have communal prayer without the community!" She will go on to describe the contemplative dimension. Being there - "getting it done" - is just the start. Participating mindfully creates the contemplative dimension.

"Interesting," I hear you saying, "but what does this have to do with me? My tasks DO have an end. Students take exams; faculty turn in grades. Then we go home, turn the page, and prepare for a fresh start."

Benedictines take a longer view; real growth takes time. Even an external practice, like singing or reading scripture out loud, takes time to learn. Many newcomers are anxious, and some don't do very good at first. After a few years of listening and practicing, they have assimilated the sound of the community. None of them can describe the day she learned to sing, or to read with expression and clarity, but most can tell you dozens of little things they learned by reflection and attention, day by day.

Try this contemplative Benedictine view for yourself. Before selling your textbooks or filing away the exams, take 15 minutes to reflect. What was new, intriguing, challenging in this course? How have you changed since it began? This especially about what you want to carry forward in the next semester; we often focus on the ways we fall short of our hopes rather than the ways - sometimes unexpected - we have grown.

"What make this BENEDICTINE?" It weaves together two themes of Benedictine life: constant watching to notice God's presence and action ("seeking God") and belief that we encounter God in and through the people and situations of our everyday lives. The Sisters are slow to turn the page or close the book: there's always the chance of noticing or understanding just a little more, growing in wisdom by those small contacts with the divine. Look for it: there's something there for you too.