(Writing from the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat [BSWR] in Bismarck, ND…)
Middle C is what came to mind as I scanned this startlingly beautiful landscape. The union of earth and sky writes itself across the horizon like a single, flowing line of chant. I expected flat terrain here in North Dakota, and it is mostly flat; but to my surprise there are many hills – gentle, green rises that sing sweet serenades to the massive bluegrey clouds that pass unhurriedly overhead.
From the hilltop just outside the monastery I can see for miles (30, I am told). This feels like the top of the world. Yet the spreading earth seems so solid, so firm, and, well, so reliably here, that it also feels like the foundation of everything, including the sky. Middle C – the center of two musical staves, both source and summit of a scale – is the first analogy that came to mind. A place that both grounds and uplifts.
Middle C also happens to be a good image for what I’m up to here in North Dakota. If you read my last post you know that I’m here at Annunciation Monastery meeting with other “first professed” Benedictines from around the country. We are all preparing for perpetual monastic profession and this workshop is designed to deepen our foundation in the Benedictine charism. For several years now we have each been engaged in monastic formation in our home monasteries – participating in the life of the community, taking classes, and engaging in ministry. These weeks of BSWR are a time to review the fundamentals of Benedictine life and integrate our experience of monastic formation as we each discern this next important step in our journey. It’s kind of like taking a melodic line and returning it to its source, to a place that both grounds and uplifts.
In her presentation on the Liturgy of the Hours yesterday, Sister Magdalena said, “You all know this, but it’s good to have a reminder sometimes.” Although her wonderful presentation was far more than just a reminder, it is indeed “good to have a reminder sometimes.” I can’t imagine a more beautiful land-and-skyscape in which to get both re-grounded and uplifted in this wonderful Benedictine charism.
Postscript: The workshop is more than just classes. We’re enjoying having some down time in which to get to know one another, read and relax, and just “be.” A week-long retreat will conclude the three-week program. A few outings are scheduled, too. Last night we attended a choral concert in the city. Tomorrow we’ll tour a nearby heritage site. And of course we’re getting to know this wonderful Benedictine community here in Bismarck. (I don’t think we will need a class on Benedictine hospitality; we are experiencing it first hand…)