There is something about visiting another Benedictine community that just feels like home. It’s not because you know the people, although you might have gotten to know some of them in one way or another over the years. It’s more about the way the Benedictine spirit has permeated the place. Everything feels so familiar, so right, even though it might be your first visit to that particular monastery.
Right now I am in Atchison, KS, attending a meeting at the monastery of Mount St. Scholastica. I only know a few people here, and I don’t know them well, but this still feels like home in some inexplicable way. You know that feeling of walking into a relative’s home and you recognize the people in the photographs, you know which cabinet likely holds the plates and bowls, and you know which magazines they probably subscribe to? It’s that kind of recognition and sense of familial belonging, but on a spiritual level. It is truly “familiar.”
Being Benedictine means, among other things, being part of a large, far-flung family. Every house has it’s own unique character – and it’s own unique cast of characters – yet the spirit of St. Benedict, a common liturgical tradition, and centuries of a shared spritual heritage create ties that bind us together in ways far beyond simply the shared label of “Benedictine” and the administrative/ecclesial ties of federations and congregations. Which means that here I am, a Southerner born and bred, visiting “my old Kansas home.”
Postscript: I’m here in Atchison to help plan an upcoming gathering of younger Sisters of Benedictine women’s communities. Also on our planning committee are Sisters from Benedictine communities in Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma and from right here in Atchison. Sr. Lynn Marie from our Cullman community is also here for a meeting, and Sr. Magdalena is with us visiting old friends at “The Mount.” My meeting ended today and I will now enjoy some retreat time while Sr. Lynn Marie’s meetings continue for another couple of days. We will drive back to Alabama next Wednesday. But for now, it is great being here in the midst of this joyful, hospitable Benedictine community.