Structures which our Sisters have inhabited for generations have been falling all around us…and none of us seem upset. I’ve heard no moans, no sighs, no poignant words of regret. Our guests routinely bemoan the loss of Mary Hall, the old Rafter Room, etc. and say things like “The Sisters must be so upset”, but I’ve heard hardly a trace of sorrow from a Sister.
In a way, it seems curious that there would be so few moans among us over the loss of these trusty (though rusty!) old buildings in which so much community life and ministry has unfolded over so many years. But I think the answer as to why there is so little sorrow can be found in an after-dinner scene from a week or so ago. I had been in the scullery washing dishes with Sr. Lynn Marie. I rolled the cart of clean dishes through our new kitchen and saw Sr. Brigid silently preparing for the next day’s breakfast. I rolled the cart onward into the dining room and saw Sr. Bertha silently wiping the tables and Sr. Benita rolling the crumb sweeper across the carpet. It was so normal, so ordinary…a post-dinner monastic-community tableau that looked as if it had been plucked up from the old kitchen and set down intact in this one. The same people, the same tasks, the same monastic heart, the same Spirit animating our actions….
I think our lack of overt sorrow over the old buildings isn’t a lack of appreciation for them, or a dearth of thanksgiving for the many years of community life which these buildings upheld, or that we haven’t told story after story about events that happened in the old structures, or that we don’t have the fondest of memories. Rather, it’s the implicit realization that we don’t inhabit buildings, we inhabit a life. Whether the kitchen is old or new, our monastic life continues right on. We are the same people living the same monastic life with the same monastic heart and filled with the same monastic zeal.
This morning I passed through the kitchen and saw Sr. Emilie peeling apples. I paused, she handed me an extra knife, and I worked with her for a few minutes before continuing on my way. It was so simple, so ordinary, so absent of the sentiment of either gain or loss…simply two monastic Sisters silently peeling a rich and fragrant fruit. We were working in a kitchen, but we were inhabiting a life.