Since the Sisters are focusing on values for our Benedictine Awareness presentation at the University of Mary this year, I have been thinking quite a bit lately about those famous Benedictine values. We have our college students memorize six important values and at the Monastery we focus on many more. I am currently shooting a short movie in which each Sister states a value that has significant meaning for her. This has been interesting as I have been hearing everything from the more usual values (prayer, hospitality) to ones that are stated less frequently (kindness, thankfulness).
However, actually becoming a Sister has made me realize that no matter how diligently one memorizes values or how well a person can talk about them, there is nothing quite like actually LIVING the values. It is one thing to talk about community; it is quite another to live in a monastic community of 30 or so women.
Community is the value that has been sticking in my mind lately. I live in a fairly diverse community. I can go from discussing ‘90s music or current trends with other Sisters in my age group (30s to 40s) and then turn around and have a deep discussion on pre-Vatican II days with some of the older Sisters. Talking with women who lived a somewhat enclosed life in the 1950s through the mid-1960s can be alternately interesting and exasperating. It is fascinating to hear about religious life “back then” and hear legendary stories of Sisters long gone, but at other times I am frustrated by our lack of shared understanding. In the pop culture realm, most older Sisters have never heard of the thousands of (pretty useless!) names that roll around in my head: names of TV shows, characters, movies, songs, clothing brands from the 1960s to today. My looks and activities challenge some Sisters who cannot understand how a person can: make it to age 32 without learning how to sew; eat chocolate for breakfast (I learned this was a no-no when I tried to make chocolate-chip muffins for breakfast once!); wear boots for fashion (not weather-related!) purposes; have time for that “facebook” thing; keep a (gasp!) somewhat untidy bedroom; drink flavored coffee; and actually like those strange, sugary cereals (example: Captain Crunch!).
Of course, I am just as baffled by many of the older Sisters’ activities and looks as they are of mine at times. Sister Gerard and I, for example, have an ongoing battle about what constitutes a proper pant-length…
Despite all of the superficial differences listed above, there is a deep unity that binds our community of Sisters. It is a unity built of traveling on the same path together through life. We are a group of women with the same goal: to seek God together in community under the Rule of St. Benedict. Our daily common prayer helps unite us as we support each other through both good times and bad.
Since I am a baker, I’ll put my idea of community in baking terms: we are like a giant batch of vanilla cupcakes, but all with different frostings – we have chocolate, maple, orange, caramel, mint, cinnamon, strawberry, and more. Like the cupcakes, our base is the same, but each Sister represents a slightly different flavoring, which of course makes us interesting! I love variety when I bake and the same is true of my community; we are all different, unique women and I would not have it any other way! J