Good zeal, like beauty and love, is manifested in a multitude of ways. For St. Benedict it is summed up in this: “preferring nothing whatever to Christ” (RB 72.11). In each member of the monastery good zeal is demonstrated with particular uniqueness because she (or he) is an utterly unique individual. Personality traits and lived experience, among many other things, contribute to an individual’s manifestation of good zeal in everyday life.
Sister Kathleen Gallas is passionate about nature, particularly of forests and flowers. For many years she has tended to the monastery’s grounds and gardens to the degree that time and energy allowed. Sisters and guests, strangers and friends–all have delighted in the natural beauty she cultivated with loving care. In my 20+ years in community, it has been obvious to me that this form of service in community has its origins in her experience of God’s creative and nurturing Spirit. For my final profession in 2003, her gift to me was a tree–a flowering crabapple tree. At the time it was a 10″ stick. Now, it is an amazing landmark outside of our new Infirmary. (It survived being transplanted during the renovation.) Sister Kathleen’s wish for me at my final profession was that I would continue to grow in God’s love like this tree. Since I have taken over managing the grounds, I am most grateful for her presence, wisdom, and encouragement.
A couple of weeks ago, I helped her to plant some flowers at the base of the St. Therese statue. I drove her around to the barn to pick up the flowers, stopped by the back of the monastery to fill a bucket of water, then drove her up to the garden like a monastery Uber driver. Although less steady on her feet than she once was, she went about the task of laying the flowers out like a pro. It didn’t matter that it was quite warm in the early afternoon sun. Watching her kneel to dig a hole for each plant and nestling the young flower into its new home was a moment of grace. I watered each tiny plant as she moved along to the next station around the circle. This was holy ground. This was a sacred moment. This was God’s love outpoured with gentleness and reciprocated by a humble servant’s hands. In me, it forged an unforgettable memory. Good zeal doesn’t require grand action; rather, it requires love, joy, and simplicity of heart.
As a former home economics teacher, Sister Kathleen is as natural in the kitchen as she is in the garden. And here too, her unique expression of good zeal can be witnessed. Baking bread and preparing sumptuous meals have been delightful labors of love and service to the Sisters and to guests. One of her most recent creations was a beautiful Orange Italian Cream Cake for the Hope Horses fundraiser last February. It didn’t matter that she had never tried the recipe before. She was up to the challenge. And, it didn’t matter that she would not get to know what it tasted like. The night before the silent auction, she beamed with great delight at her accomplishment as we made sure to photograph her with her masterpiece. But, what was characteristically visible in the moment was the delight of God’s love radiating through her smile. Good zeal at work for sure.
Sister Kathleen is also an avid reader, receiving and passing along publications at a steady pace. She enjoys passing by the jigsaw puzzle and putting in a piece or two then continuing on her way. Regardless of what she is doing, she is a woman who savors the present moment. She relishes each moment in life as a moment lived with the God who is her intimate friend. We are most grateful for the generous sharing of her gifts with us and for her witness as a woman of true faith and prayer.
By Sister Therese Haydel, OSB