That sentence was part of a conversation I overheard between two workmen as I was walking through Ottilia Hall the other day. They were working in what will eventually be the infirmary, and were tending to windows and blinds in one of the bedrooms.
We are all so grateful for the quality workmanship that is going into our renovation, and also the thoughtful attention to the needs of our eldest. But I had to inwardly smile when I heard the comment, thinking, “They have no idea just how mighty our 90-year-olds are.”
Any monastic will be quick to tell you that our eldest, while perhaps weakened in body, are our strong ones. They are often the ones are doing the spiritual ‘heavy lifting,’ opening the blinds of spiritual insight for the rest of us. They do indeed know how to pull strings and let the Light shine in.
Monastic life is inherently multi-generational. St. Benedict tells us that “the younger monks…must respect their seniors, and the seniors must love the juniors.” Here in the monastery, we younger ones lovingly lift the mechanical blinds for those who cannot, but the eldest lovingly lift spiritual blinds for us, teaching us how to seek God through this monastic way that they have faithfully lived for more decades than I have been alive.
Every Sister eventually retires from active, external ministry (usually long after her non-religious counterparts would have retired). But none of us ever retires from the commitments of our monastic profession. And none of ever retires from prayer. No matter our age or physical limitations, we never stop seeking to raise the blinds to let in the light of Christ.
Postscript: We are indeed extremely grateful for all that is being done to make our monastic home more accessible for all of our Sisters, and for our guest areas as well. The new elevator for Ottilia Hall cannot come soon enough; it will be a real boon for monastic community life, allowing every Sister to have access to every floor of the monastery, as well as helping guests to access the chapel. Thanks to all the workmen whose careful attention is helping to make this a reality. By the way, each of these images is from pre-renovation Ottilia Hall, mementos of some of the very ordinary gestures of daily life in the monastery.