The end of July each year brings an important event in the life of our Benedictine monastic community: Community Meetings. For nearly a week all of the Sisters assemble at Sacred Heart Monastery to ponder, reflect, dialogue, discuss, and make decisions about our common life.
When I first entered in 1985, I had no concept of the importance of these meetings for smoothly living the common life. As an introvert, I rarely appreciate all the talking. I can remember thinking that it was not efficient and that often we made “much ado about nothing.” While it is true that we can discuss small, insignificant matters way too much, all of this talking is very important.
It is too easy to assume what another is thinking or to assume that she will see things the same way we do. We humans have a lot in common, but we are also very diverse. That diversity can bring a rich vibrancy to life in community provided we have the humility to put aside our own views and truly listen to those of another.
Benedict knew this over 1500 years ago. He even dedicated a chapter of his Rule to it. Chapter 3, “Calling the Community for Counsel,” says:
Whenever anything important is to be done in the monastery, the superior shall call together the whole community and personally explain the matter. Having heard everyone’s views, let the superior weigh the matter and do what is judged the wisest course. We have said that all should be called for counsel because God often reveals to the younger what is best. The members, for their part, are to express their opinion with all humility and not presume to defend their own views stubbornly. The decision is up to the superior and all are to obey in what has been determined best. Just as it becomes disciples to obey their master, so also it becomes the master to settle all things with foresight and justice.
We often groan about attending meetings, and we sometimes joke that meetings are more likely to occur in hell than in heaven. Still, we humans are social creatures who must communicate in order to live. Our Community meetings are an opportunity to listen to one another and to offer the respect and care to the other that our Christian faith demands.
By Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, OSB
Sutera, OSB, J. (2021) St. Benedict’s Rule: An Inclusive Translation. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, p. 22.