(you mean I have to live here forever?)
Our Sister Agatha is celebrating her 50th jubilee this Saturday. What does that mean? It means that Sister Agatha has been a Benedictine Sister for fifty years – five decades ago, in 1963, she stood with five other girls and professed her first vows.
Sister Agatha’s upcoming jubilee has got me thinking about my own 50th jubilee date, which will be in 2058. I will be 78 years old at that time, so it is possible I could actually reach that milestone. Since the last thing I want to do is imagine myself at age 78 (scary when you’re currently 32!)…I thought I would reflect a little on the value of stability.
Stability is one of the three vows (or promises) that Benedictines make. It means that we are committed to our specific monastery and our community of Sisters. When we take this vow, we dedicate ourselves to our monastic and local communities, pledging to remain in one place for the rest of our lives.
What makes a person stay happily in the same place for fifty years – and more? I myself have never held the same job for over four years. Like many college students, I moved numerous times while in school, staying in six different apartments and two homes while finishing undergraduate and graduate school. Most of the time, I barely bothered to unpack. I was a person who moved around a lot, never really settling down, and I LIKED it. I liked that I could leave a job or an apartment when I started to dislike it. Nothing got old or stale or too routine.
When I came to Annunciation Monastery I knew that I might eventually take a vow that would tie me to the place FOREVER. During the first five or so years of my formation, I was happy to not be a permanent member of the community. As I progressed from affiliate to postulant to novice to first professed, I was secretly relieved at each step that I could still leave if I wanted to – after all, I had not yet professed my final (permanent!) vows.
But of course I never did leave. So what has kept me here the last seven years? I think that one word sums it up: HOME. A true HOME is where person is ultimately the most happiest. But what makes a person happy? A major part of my happiness at the monastery is a fulfilling balance of comfortableness and challenge.
I am soothed and made glad by:
-our community’s prayer life and my ever-deepening relationship with God
-the wonderful relationships I have developed with many Sisters
-the strong support I get from my community
-our fairly ordered and dependable schedule
-the many opportunities for service and creativity in monastic life
-the joy-filled atmosphere that first attracted me to religious life
At the same time, I am challenged by:
-the prayer life at the monastery, and the way my beliefs and ideas about God have stretched and changed and expanded over the years
-the tougher relationships I have with some Sisters
-the strain of living every day with the same people with basically the same routines
-the new and sometimes scary things I am asked to do or volunteer to do, often for the good of the whole community
Despite the emotional twists and turns involved with living in a monastic community, I have stayed because through it all, Annunciation Monastery has always felt like HOME. A warm place that manages to comfort and stretch me at the same time. A place where God is surely present in each and every moment. As I anticipate my Final Profession on October 12th of this year, I am happy to say that I am truly excited to live here forever.