Today is the Solemnity of the Passing of our Holy Father St. Benedict…and I am thinking about paint colors. China White and Mountain Mist, to be specific. You might wonder what in the world St. Benedict and paint colors have to do with each other. But indeed, they are related. You see, St. Benedict, during his years leading his monastic community, wrote a rule of life for monks. He wrote with such wisdom and practicality that his Rule has been a source of insight and life for generations of monastic communities.
Here in our monastery, we read from the Rule nightly during Compline. We study it in classes. Phrases from the Rule routinely grace our conversation. A copy sits on the bookshelf beside my desk. Another copy is up in my room next to my Bible. The wisdom of the Rule permeates our lives and guides everything we do here at our monastery, including the most practical and mundane of day-to-day activities. So when it was time to pick paint colors for our under-renovation Ottilia Hall, it was natural that wisdom from the Rule guided the process, as it has the entire renovation effort.
Simplicity, stewardship, the seeking of counsel from others, and concern for the individual are among the many aspects of the Rule that have been brought to bear on renovation decisions, including the simple task of choosing paint colors. Our monastic administrators oversaw a single, simple paint choice for the ‘big picture’ and the common areas, but for the individual rooms to which we’ve been assigned we were each able to choose from among four color options.
I am very happy with the simplicity of the China White that I chose, but sometimes I think about the Mountain Mist that will be in some of the other rooms. It is a nice, muted blue and it makes me think about St. Benedict and the mountain mists that he would have experienced in his monastery on Monte Cassino, and in the cave of Subiaco. I think about him overseeing the construction of the earliest monastery buildings at Monte Cassino. I think about his concern for his community and for the individual monks with whom he lived. I think about him as a leader of monks, as a lover of God, as a seeker of wisdom, as a lover of scripture. I think about the monks through the centuries who have planned and built and occupied the sacred spaces that we call monasteries, places in which we come to spend a lifetime seeking God.
I think St. Benedict would like the way in which our monastic leaders and our community have gone about the renovation project, including handling such practical, mundane tasks as choosing paint colors. I think he would like the consultation, the simplicity, the good stewardship, and the care for individuals. I think he would like the simplicity of the china white walls of the room to which I’ve been assigned, the room that will embrace and hold my personal prayer, my study, my lectio divina, my search for God.
Today, as Benedictines everywhere commemorate Benedict’s passing – from the yellow prairies of the Great Plains to the white-capped Alps of Bavaria to the blue mountain mists of Tanzania to the green hills of Ireland – we celebrate the countless ways in which his Rule has colored our lives with grace and beauty and wisdom, including the simplest of our everyday tasks.
Postscript: If you would like to see a few pictures of the Sisters taking a tour through the color options, click here for our weekly construction update and scroll to pages 39-42. Please continue your prayers for our renovation project and capital campaign!