Good Zeal

Independence Eve

It’s Independence Eve, and here in the monastery none of us is being particularly independent.

Sr. Magdalena has been up in the darkening chapel, rehearsing some patriotic organ fare to share with us tomorrow. Our Postulant Michelle and a visiting Sister are in the kitchen, their sugar-dusted hands orchestrating a symphony of diced strawberries, lemons, and flour. Sr. Priscilla has her red, white, and blue table decorations ready, with help from some others. After supper, a few of us walked through the new infirmary renovation with an elderly Sister who had not yet seen it. Sr. Janet and Sr. Bernadette expertly guided her around barriers and over power cords. After the tour, I engaged in a shoe shine project with Sr. Tonette. And after that, I stopped to visit with Sr. Lynn for a while.

Just from these few instances on one particular evening, it is clear that in no way are we really independent. Even in celebrating independence, we are not independent. It takes all of us. We were created for family, for community, for sharing our gifts with and for others. Even in the darkening chapel, Sr. Magdalena wasn’t really alone. She was preparing to celebrate with all of us. And I was there too, readying the sacristy for tomorrow morning’s Mass.

Monastic life calls us to recognize our interdependence in a particularly intentional manner. St. Benedict refers to this in several ways: “mutual obedience,” “good zeal,” “the good of all concerned,” and similar phrases. He writes that monks are not to pursue what they judge best for themselves, but instead what they judge to be “better for someone else.” (RB 72:7)

I’m so happy and grateful to celebrate the Independence Day of our country and rejoice over the many freedoms we enjoy, but I’m even happier that we can celebrate together, foregoing independence even as we celebrate independence. With sugar-frosted hands, freshly shined shoes, patriotic song, and festive décor, we will help each other celebrate a dandy yankee doodle of a day.

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

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