Good Zeal

A portable classroom

Last week, Sr. Mary and I took a drive up to Huntsville, about an hour north of Cullman, to visit with Sr. Treva. After some greetings and tea, we sat around her kitchen table and had class.

I am a “Scholastic,” or “temporary professed.” That means that I am in the early years of monastic life, have made my first – or temporary – Monastic Profession, but have not yet made final vows. Sr. Mary is my Scholastic Director. She oversees my monastic formation and teaches me in a variety of ways – both formally and informally. My classes are taught by various Sisters, and sometimes that means a road trip for class with a Sister who is out on mission.

St. Benedict describes the monastery as a “school of the Lord’s service.” Some of my monastic formation is academic and formal, and occasionally involves a journey. But the vast majority of my “schooling” consists of the day in and day out living of the life amongst my monastic community and listening carefully for God’s voice through prayer, scripture, and the wisdom and teaching of my monastic elders. Through fidelity to the daily rounds of liturgy, private prayer, and community life, one’s heart gradually becomes formed, or ‘educated,’ in the monastic way of seeking God.

I’m not too often in a car, the kitchen table classes are not every day, and I have made a commitment to stability that limits my “portability.” Instead, it is my heart – as both classroom and student – that is in motion as I grow in this way of life, with deepening roots and spreading vines. As St. Benedict puts it, “as we progress in this way of life and in faith, our hearts will swell with the inexpressible delight of love.”

The trip, the tea, the kitchen table – none are ends in themselves. It’s about an expanded heart rooted in Christ, “in whom we live and move and have our being.”

Postscript: Pictured at top is Sr. Veronica, a Sister out on mission with whom I had class a couple of months ago. In the photograph, she was touring Sr. Mary and me around some of her Hispanic ministry sites. By the way, our main classroom topic for the year is women monastics of the medieval era. I enjoy history, love monastic life, and appreciate learning about our foremothers and forefathers, so it’s been an enjoyable year of study with woncerful teachers. You can meet my teachers at this link.

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