Community Retreat – Day Three

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2012

Today was my last day with the community’s retreat. Once again, it was so nice to see the chapel full of people eager to worship and learn.

Our talk this morning was about prayer. Abbott Jerome pointed out that there are many tools that help us know God, but spending personal time with Him in prayer is what truly guides us through the wilderness. He spoke mostly about prayer as supplication – when we ask God for things we need or want. Luckily for us, who live in a world of distractions, it’s not the clarity of our focus, but the intensity of our desire.

It should be obvious to any visitors, and not just interns, that prayer is extremely important to monastic life at Our Lady of Grace. After all, it is a central part of Benedictine life. The community prays daily for their needs, and for the blessings on their ministries. At Benedict Inn, a place that offers many of those other tools to help guide people along their spiritual journey (including learning opportunities, fellowship gatherings and spiritual directions), guests are also exposed to an environment of contemplation and prayer. The facilities provide a place away for those on retreat to spend their personal time with God.

Although I am sad to end my time with the Community Retreat, I am thankful for the new perspectives and knowledge I have been exposed to. Who knows, maybe I will be able to attend a full retreat someday…

Community Retreat – Day Two

TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012

“I am with you. I love you. Trust me.” These are the three things that God wants us to know, as stated by Abbott Jerome Kodell this morning. These are great words of comfort, especially in a life that can be difficult…but how does God let us know?

Well, he gives us signs along the journey. Sometimes we act on our own intuition, sometimes we believe that we know what we’re doing, and sometimes, often to our surprise, God reminds us that He’s the one helping us along the way. In the Bible, we read examples, such as incredible, swirling clouds with fire, or brilliant stars that seem to travel. Well, ok. These aren’t things most people see just any old day of the week.

So, what signs does God use? Abbott Jerome told a story of a man who had difficulty discerning his vocation, but when he joined a community found out the name he had chosen upon entering had significance in his family. This was a sign that God had been with him all along, although the road had been tough; a sign that seems like a small miracle, without the freaky environmental displays.

I reflected upon the ways that God reveals himself to me in my journey. Although there are many places that I find God, I chose today to think about God revealed through other people. How many times has God sent just the right person to you when you needed it most, when you needed to hear God’s voice or see God’s smile tangibly? Can you feel God’s love in your love with others? I do, with my family, my boyfriend, my friends…

And I’m sure this sentiment is something that is appreciated in the Community during this time of retreat. Their lives are interwoven together, and they share a deep love of God that connects them. Surely God sends signs to these women through one another. Although not every moment is harmonious, it definitely creates a unique bond among the sisters, such as those who are co-workers at the Benedict Inn, and I am glad to be a witness to this.

Community Retreat – Day One

MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012

“Let us set out on this way with the Gospel for our guide.” – Rule of Benedict, Prologue

Alright, well technically the Community Monastic Retreat began Sunday, but today was my first day attending the special events led by Abbott Jerome Kodell, our guest and guide. Annually, Our Lady of Grace holds a retreat for the community, and invites outside guests to attend and learn more about monastic life and the Benedictine way. This year the theme is the spiritual journey as found in Scripture. In addition to morning prayer, I have been generously invited to listen to Abbott Jerome’s seminars in the morning, as well as the special Masses at midday.

Today, I found a wonderful balance that I believe St. Benedict would have been proud of. Opening my workday with morning praise is not unusual for me, but this morning this was followed by the abbott’s 30 minute talk. He compared our spiritual journey to a journey in the wilderness (fitting, as we recently celebrated St. John the Baptist in the Church.) Through various stories and Scripture quotations, he explained that although it may not be easy, we need to let Faith be our guide along our journeys. To do this, we must listen as disciples and put our trust in God, who, after all, knows best.

I also got to attend Mass before midday meal, which had a really good Gospel reading (Matthew, 7:1-5) and many songs of comfort (which are needed around the community lately, as several sisters have unfortunately been diagnosed with cancer.) As my boyfriend will tell you, I am not shy about singing in church, as I feel it is an important way for me to participate in the liturgy.

And, amongst all this, I went about my tasks at BI. Today I was put on “emergency” duty finishing recording and inputting inventory into the computer system, something which has to be submitted by the end of the month. I was determined to make my work meaningful today (so as not to unbalance Ora et Labora!), and so I put worked as efficiently as I could and got my part done. Phew!

I’m absolutely looking forward to learning more tomorrow about our individual and collective spiritual journeys from a Benedictine perspective. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the remainder of my week with the retreat!

Ferdinand

The monastery of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, IN. This community sponsored the sisters who later established the independent house in Beech Grove.

TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2012

It has to be said, one of the perks of scheduling a part-time internship Monday-Wednesday is that I get four-day weekends. I used this past long weekend to enjoy my time off with my boyfriend and his family in Dubois County. I had a wonderful visit, not the least because I found some unexpected connections (when I say “It’s a small world,” I really should say, “Indiana is a small world.”)

Ever since the sisters at Our Lady of Grace and Benedict Inn found out about my connections to this area in southern Indiana, they have encouraged me to visit the Benedictine sisters at Ferdinand, which is just about 10 miles from my boyfriend’s house. This past Friday, I finally had my opportunity. After attending morning Mass at the local parish, my boyfriend’s mother offered to take me to the monastery. She herself has spent a great deal of time there, visiting relatives that were members of the community, and was happy to show it to me.

The monastery itself is gorgeous. The architecture from the 19th century, which has been carefully maintained and restored, is stunning. I was awed by the Italian marble and German woodworking inside the chapel. Everything I saw on the tour was intriguing. However, most of all, I loved the feeling I had knowing I have connections. I told everyone I met that I am an intern in Beech Grove, and asked if we had common acquaintances. I proudly pointed out the images of Benedictine saints on the walls. I was even curious enough to peek into a morning praise book to see if the hymns were same (they’re not, but they are lovely still!)

Although our visit wasn’t a long one, I came away satisfied, feeling I had completed my quest. Since returning this week, I have been excitedly discussing my trip with the sisters at Our Lady of Grace. As for my next visit to the area, I’m commissioned to see St. Meinrad and expand my Benedictine world further…

Helpful Hobbies

MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2012

Recently, I went with our administrator next door to St. Paul Hermitage, a residential home for the elderly and one of the ministries of Our Lady of Grace, for a meeting with the activities director. We wanted to talk with her about a scrapbooking program we are considering organizing for 2013.

While this woman has worked as an event planner, and loves working with the residents at the Hermitage, she also has a passion for scrapbooking. She owns a business in Beech Grove, and enjoys many excited visits from her regular customers and friends. During our meeting, she explained to us a bit more about why scrapbooking is so close to her heart. First, she feels that it is important that people be able to record their memories for future generations, in a creative and time-lasting way. However, what she really loves about her scrapbooking business is being able to share joy with people. When she demonstrates a new idea, or someone completes a project at one of her events, she has shared something special with them, and brought them a little bit of happiness.

Getting slightly side-tracked in our meeting, we all agreed that even outside of the normal jobs we perform, as activity directors, administrators or interns, we have hobbies that we can use to help others, even if in little ways. While our administrator puts everything together at Benedict Inn – something wonderful in itself, and no easy task! – she also enjoys pottery. She attends pottery classes with friends, meets new people, shares her interests, and creates pieces of art that can be given away. In all this, she can spread happiness too. When I thought about a personal hobby of my own, I didn’t think of anything creative right away, but rather thought about running. I love running, but sometimes it can seem to be a selfish hobby, something only for my own enjoyment. However, when I think about all the good experiences I’ve had running with friends, and especially with my boyfriend, I value this as a way to spend time with other people. I also try to benefit others through participating in races that help a cause, such as the run/walk held June 7th here in Indianapolis, sponsored by the United Methodist Church, whose funds will go to combating malaria.

Needless to say, this meeting gave me more to think about than just our programming (although we threw around some great ideas!) Everyone has hobbies that are dear to them, that allow them to makes unique connections with others. Some of these talents are incorporated into careers, and others remain helpful hobbies.

Humbling Labor

MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2012

Recently I have been put in charge of a new project at Benedict Inn. The administrator has commissioned me to clean the art room, the chapel, the snack room and other areas, along with a small team of other women from the monastery. While I appreciate being given a project to head-up, I have to be honest, too; I was initially frustrated with the thought of taking a morning out of my time to clean. What am I learning from this? Is there where my skills are to be used? Isn’t this someone else’s job? were all thoughts that ran through my head (though I may not be too proud of them now.)

After a period of internally grumbling about having to wipe down cabinets and vacuum under shelves, I has a moment of understanding in chapel. One of the sisters read a reflection at noon prayer about Jesus & his labor. Through some divine intervention, my thoughts immediately went to Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. This was an act of cleansing, of cleaning off the physical dirt from human feet. Jesus, the Christ, humbled himself to wipe down the smelly, filthy feet of his friends without complaining or asking why he should have to do it. This moment of understanding was humbling for me. If God could do that, then I can surely help dust a few rooms. After all, it is part of my job to look after the guests at Benedict Inn, and keeping the facilities neat & tidy is part of this.

So, while I don’t necessarily relish wiping down cabinets, I have looked for the positives in the experience. For one, I got to work with a team of great women: one who is part of the community, one who is entering in September, and one with a huge heart and an interest in monastic life. The hard work of these women, the way that they eagerly approached our tasks with such care, has inspired me to recall my own commitment to service.

Now, when I pray each morning for understanding, patience and skill before beginning my work, I may recall this experience to further shape my labor.

When Internships Collide

THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 2012

This summer I am blessed to have a wonderful roommate, who coincidentally is also completing an internship with Butler’s Center for Faith & Vocation. She is working in the Communications office of the Indiana United Methodist Church (it sounds fancy, and it is!) We often share about our experiences, including the common tasks we are charged with, such as social media and networking, but also how our faiths are connected to and affected by our internships. I really value having her to talk with, as she is understanding, curious and really bright.

I am always interested in the work she is doing with the church (not the least because I grew up attending a Methodist church part-time), but this week has been particularly special. Today begins the annual conference for the church in Indiana, and she has been working very hard helping to organize everything. We celebrated this morning by kicking-off with a 5K walk/run sponsored by the UMC along the downtown canal path. It was a beautiful morning, and benefited a great cause – the extermination of malaria in Africa.

As if this weren’t exciting enough, I was thrilled to find out that we had a guest at the Inn who is a pastor with the UMC and would be attending the conference. I got to know him some over lunch a few days this week, and was glad to connect with him in some way. I also find it so cool that my internship & my roommate’s internship have collided this week.

Even when our internships don’t have such literal connections, I still appreciate what our experiences have in common, but also the ways in which they differ. It is so valuable being able to share views, and come to a better understanding of another’s, with mutual respect and interest. I can’t wait to see how we each develop throughout the remainder of this summer’s internship experiences.