Good Zeal


I imagine that the stars in the starry sky must have shared a smile when they first caught sight of the tomato vine that has sprouted through the construction gravel and broken cement between our old and new monastery kitchens.

I can imagine them watching together as the vine first emerged – arising like a hero from the concrete netherworld, or like a memory from the earth. And I’m pretty sure they would have smiled.

Perhaps the vine is a distant memory of our earliest Sisters who once collected kitchen scraps near that spot, saving the leftovers – surely some tomatoes among them – to feed to the hogs down at the old pig barn.

Or perhaps it is a near memory of the tomatoes Sr. Bernadette is growing this very year just a stones’ throw away on the other side of the back drive.

Or perhaps it is a memory of what is yet to be, the fertile promise and abundant hope that lie gestating beneath the rocks that will be plied away later this year when the old kitchen is demolished and the good ground, and all that lies within it, is restored to the nightshade gaze of the starry sky.

Or perhaps the flourishing vine is simply a reminder to keep watch with the stars, and to smile at the grace that is always ready to burst forth even from the rockiest earth.

Here in the monastery we keep watch with each other day in and day out for a lifetime. We can grow so accustomed the sights and sounds and routines around us that even our Sisters can sometimes begin to seem to us like rocky ground. We forget to be surprised, astonished, amazed at the beauty that is also there, the vine that is always ready to burst forth and flourish amidst the routines of daily life.

Our newly-sprouting tomato vine, emerging like a hero from the earth, invites us to keep watch, to be astonished, to smile, and to remember – to remember both that which has been, that which is, and that which still lies gestating beneath the nightshade gaze of the starry, starry sky.

Postscript: Pope Francis spoke beautiful and knowing words about community life when he spoke last week to a community of Poor Clare nuns on the Feast of St. Francis. As quoted in the Vatican Information Service e-news the Pope said: “The second thing I wanted to say to you, briefly, relates to community life. Forgive and support each other, because community life is not easy. Make sure that the monastery is not a purgatory, but rather a family. Look for solutions with love; do not harm anyone among you to solve a problem. Cherish community life, because when the community is like a family, the Holy Spirit is among the community. I beg for you the joy that is born of true contemplation and of a beautiful community life.”

Whether we dwell in a monastery or within a family home or in a small apartment by ourselves – or even in a stable in Bethlehem – may our gaze be one of true contemplation. And may joy be born.

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