In the midst of bowl season, it seems fitting to employ a sports metaphor to note that several Sisters are coming off the bench this week to cover my various assignments so that I can spend a few days visiting my family early in this new year. Sister Kathleen Christa is taking care of lights in the chapel. Sisters Regina and Lynn Marie are taking my dishwashing turns. Sister Therese is being both her hands and mine in the Retreat Center. Sister Sara Aiden and Sister Emilie are covering the full workload in the sacristy. And on and on…
We do this sort of thing all the time, constantly coming off the bench and checking into the game either to give someone a rest, pitch in during a particularly busy time, or simply to help out another Sister if it appears she could use a hand. But even as we come off the bench, we keep right on covering our regular positions. It’s as if the half back lines up in the regular position behind the quarterback, but is fully prepared to run a deep route down the sideline if the call comes, and perhaps even stay in the game on defense.
The very nature of monastic life means that the work and prayer of the community and the rhythm of liturgy roll right along, whether or not an individual Sister is present. Unlike a business that closes up shop at the end of the day, or a family that cancels newspaper delivery while on vacation, the monastic rhythm keeps going, and we monastics move easily and naturally between being first string in our usual positions to warming the bench for other roles, always ready to run right into the huddle when the call comes for a substitution.
But when it comes to prayer, there are no bench warmers. When a Sister is away, she does not leave the playing field, even if she is not present in her choir stall. We each travel with versions of the Liturgy of the Hours that keep us praying with the community, and indeed, with the entire Church, when we are away from the monastery. Likewise, in accord with the Rule of St. Benedict, the community at home incorporates those absent into their prayer, routinely remembering “our absent Sisters” with a special commendation at the close of each liturgical hour.
When it comes to the work of the monastery, each of us stays prepared to come off the bench to serve wherever and whenever we are needed. But when it comes to prayer, whether present in our usual choir stall or away on a journey, each of us is always on the field.
Postscript- To read a previous Living the Tradition “football post”, you can check out the February archives at left and scroll to John Donne and the Super Bowle.