In a monastic community, the fragrance of memory rides on the air that we breathe. It is not stale air. Not even close to stale. Whether we’re honoring an early monastic saint or chuckling over something that happened last week, the fragrance is infused with the lively vigor of seeking God with all of one’s being. The call that led our Benedictine ancestors to seek God through the monastic way of life is the same call that animates us here at Sacred Heart Monastery. It is a summons that resounds through the ages, and we deeply feel our spiritual kinship with ancient holy men and women who heard the call, just as we deeply feel our kinship with one another today.
These past days have been full of lively memories of spiritual kinship. With the Community gathered for our annual summer meetings, followed by a Jubilee celebration, stories abounded even as new stories were being formed. These stories are not just stories. They are the fragrant memories of seeking God together through shared prayer and work, memories that have helped mold and meld us as one. They are memories that help carry us forward toward future years of prayer and work and yet more stories, memories, fragrance. They are memories that help form a single community from the otherwise unrelated stories of our individual lives – a common call, a common life, united and anchored in God.
We remember our monastic ancestors through stories, through their writings, through images on holy cards and stained glass, and especially through the liturgy. But we also remember them through our lives here today. The day-to-day life in our monastery may differ in some material ways from that of long ago, but animated by the same charism and call, the essence is the same – a group of individuals called to seek God through a common life under a Rule and a Prioress. In other words, we seek God together, through community – and there can be no community without memory. And so we “remember when…” and “remember who…,” breathing deeply of the fragrance of living memory that rides on the wind, memory that helps carry us forward in this ever-ancient, ever-new charism and call.
Postscript: In the monastery, “the lively vigor of seeking God with all of one’s being” entails not only prayer and ministry, but also the shared tasks of life in community – from the profoundly spiritual to the tiresomely mundane to the festive and fun. For seven of us, the decoration of these cupcakes for some guests last week will certainly form a “remember when…” Decorating cupcakes may seem like far too mundane an activity for a spiritual pursuit such as monastic life, but the “daily” is the stuff of which our life is made. It is the medium within which we live out our call to serve one another and others, and it is the matter out of which our memories – and bonds – are formed. Even in just the few short years I have been at Sacred Heart, many memories are already implanted deeply – painting a community room with Sister Tonette and Sister Therese, walking across a frozen pasture as part of a funeral procession, helping Sister Regina in her rose garden, many adventures with Sister Madeline… These activities have become memories, bringing me into the on-going story of this community and into the long lineage of those who have sought God through the monastic way of life.