Good Zeal

Strangely familiar

Do you know the sensation of simply taking a breath or casting a gaze and being flooded with a sense of memory, as if the air itself, or a even a scattered leaf blowing within it, is familiar, is family, is somehow part of you? Yesterday morning, with sodden maple leaves underfoot and the air damp with laurel and rain, I had that sensation as I gazed across a Blue Ridge horizon. The atmosphere was heavy with a kind of high barometric pressure of familiarity and the memories of many a rainy Blue Ridge day.  It was an atmosphere that I knew, within a landscape that unfolded like an old family quilt. And then, yesterday afternoon, when I opened the car door to the salty, sulfur breeze of the Carolina low country, the same sensation swept over me.  Humid air, palmettos, wooden porch steps – everything felt familiar.

Each Sister has a family story. We have big brothers and little sisters and favorite aunts and uncles and treasured nieces and nephews. We have hometowns and favorite childhood haunts and landscapes that are etched within our very being. For each of us, certain places and people awaken a sense of home, of familiarity, of family, of memory. Certain vistas unfold like an old family quilt.

Each Sister also has a story of coming to Sacred Heart and somehow knowing that this, too, is familiar, as if monastic life is somehow part of her being.  It’s as if in entering a new life we are somehow returning to something already within us, like shaking out an old family quilt that we’ve never seen before, but that we recognize as ours.  The air just seems right. The vista unfolds like a memory. It’s all strangely familiar.

For some of us, it’s the rhythms and patterns of community life. For others, it’s the monastic liturgy. For most of us, it’s probably some combination of the two. For all of us, there is something about the Benedictine way of life that feels etched within our being. When each of us encountered the Rule of Benedict for the first time, it somehow felt strangely familiar.

At a recent Vocation Awareness event, a high school student asked me how I knew which religious order was right for me. I don’t recall my exact answer, but one way to express it would be that reading the Rule and experiencing my community for the first time was like unfolding a new landscape, yet recognizing it as something long known.  It felt as natural to me as autumn air full of mountain laurel and rain. It felt, and still feels, familiar. 

Postscript: When we enter monastic community, even though the nature of our commitment is unique and all-encompassing, we do not forget family.  Some of us are from Cullman and encounter family members regularly in the course of day-to-day life and ministry. Some of us are from much further afield and make one lengthy home visit a year. Some of us are somewhere in between and see family occasionally.

I am currently on a home visit in the Carolinas. For a sense of the many landscapes we call “home,” you may be interested in viewing our Meet the Community web page and seeing our various places of birth.

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