We recently hosted a small gathering of Benedictines from around the country. On the morning of their departure, a few envelopes began to appear on a table near the morning coffee. As departing Sisters sipped coffee, cleared their meeting room, or passed by with their bags, they invariably stopped to look through the envelopes, many taking one or two with them. When Benedictines encounter envelopes such as this, no explanatory announcement is needed. We know what to do. The Benedictine Express is second nature.
We Benedictines have our own mail system. It is one of the many ways we keep alive the monastic connections that we forge over the years through various Benedictine meetings, conferences, etc. When a Sister travels to another monastery, she becomes part of the Express, bringing greetings that flow between Benedictines from different parts of the country (or world). Yes, we e-mail. We Facebook. Some of us Skype or text. But none of these beats the Benedictine Express.
Central to the tradition is written acknowledgement of the kindness of the one who bears the message, an expression of gratitude that is characteristic of the Benedictine Express. We appreciate the greeting itself – a handwritten message, hand delivered from a distant locale. But we also appreciate the kindness that accompanies it. Cell towers and wireless connections can get a message from here to there, but it is kindness that actually connects us to one another.
The simple acknowlegement of gratitude for the kindness of the messenger is not mere politeness. It is a stance of humble gratitude. And it reminds us that through kindness we can become bearers of the message of God’s love.
To show kindness, no explanation is needed. We know what to do. May it be for us second nature. And may we always express gratitude for the many kindnesses shown to us.
Postscript: Not to spoil a good line, but I should point out that the phrase “Benedictine Express” doesn’t really exist in actual usage. It’s just a phrase that came to me in order to describe a messenging process that, in practice, is way too informal and second nature to need a descriptive title. It’s something we just do, without a need to name it. May our kindness be the same, borne so naturally within our being that it doesn’t even need a name.