A little over a week ago I lost my monastery keys. For days I have searched high and low, traced and retraced my steps, checked pockets, rummaged through drawers, befriended St. Anthony, looked in unlikely spots, and repeatedly asked other Sisters “have you seen my keys?” I have grown weary of asking, and I’m sure they’ve grown weary of being asked. I’ve grown weary of saying “It has three keys and a Benedictine medal.” I’ve grown weary of borrowing keys for my evening walk. But I have not grown weary of searching. The hunt has gone on with sustained attention and undaunted zeal.
With lost keys on my mind, I had to smile when I read the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday. Luke 15: 1-32 tells the story of lost sheep, lost coins, and a lost son. It tells of the undaunted search and the joy of the find. As I have spent time in lectio divina (sacred reading) with this passage all I’ve been able to think about are my lost keys. I have imagined my joy at finding them, and have imagined the exponentially greater joy of a Father at the return of a child, of God at the return of a lost soul.
This afternoon – at last – I found my keys in a spot that was both highly improbable yet somehow utterly logical. My heart leapt when I saw them, and I immediately imagined the infinitely greater joy of our Shepherd when the stray sheep is found and the flock is again united and whole.
The effort and attention I devoted to searching for lost keys this week was like a deep well of reflection, especially in light of the reading from Luke… Am I searching for the things of God with the same zeal as I have searched for my keys? Am I embodying St. Benedict’s “good zeal” in service to my Sisters and others? In what ways might I have wondered afar and am lost? Is my attention ‘missing in action’ during prayer? And over what does my heart rejoice? A good examination of conscience on so many fronts…all from a set of lost keys and the ever alive and enlivening Word of God.
Postscript: So what does a Sister keep on her key ring? It depends on the Sister and her particular needs. I have a key to the monastery and two Retreat Center keys. Why no car key? I don’t own a car. Through my monastic vows I am committed to common ownership, and when I need to use a car I sign one out and pick up keys from a central location. A Sister whose ministry requires routine use of a car has a car assigned to her, but she does not own it. Perhaps someday I’ll blog about monastery cars, or about St. Benedict’s chapter on Monks and Private Ownership… But for now I am going to take a walk, and let myself back in the door with these newly found keys!