Reflection of St. Paul’s Monastery
Written by Ann Siverling, OblSB
As a Benedictine Oblate of St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood, MN, I have enjoyed the hospitality, support, and love of the Sisters for the past nine years. I can honestly say that there is no other place on this earth where I have felt so loved and accepted from the moment I walked through their front door. I am just completing a 6-day, silent retreat (I know – silent for six days!?!?) at the Monastery and was fortunate during this time to experience several different feast days.
One of those feast days was to commemorate the death of St. Benedict (March 21). As part of the feast celebration, three Benedictine Associates made or renewed their commitment to being a Benedictine Associate and prayed with the Sisters. I was privileged to gaze upon these three women as they signed their papers and shared why being a Benedictine Associate was so important in their lives. But then, the most amazing thing happened. All of the Sisters who were able stood up and raised their hands in blessing over these three women, including one sister who is in a wheelchair and could only raise one hand! Then the Sisters sang this wonderful song of blessing over these women. I watched one Sister as she sang the last line of the song, lowered her hands just the slightest bit and moved them in a way that looked like a caress. My heart overflowed with the beauty of it all – so much love was being poured out upon these three women by the Sisters. I will always cherish this moment of profound love and beauty.
While I watched, I suddenly had a thought pop into my head. It said, “This is what we will lose.” As an Oblate, I am one of many who take seriously carrying the substance of the Rule of Benedict forward to future generations because we have found it a beautiful, disciplined, challenging, and forgiving way to live and love and serve others. We both teach and learn from one another. We share our gifts with each other to lift each other up and prompt each other on. I think we will be successful in our mission because we are all dedicated to being Benedictine.
But the thing we will never be is, “the Sisters.” These Sisters have lived together, loved together, work together, laughed together, cried together, argued together, discerned together, forgiven one another, sometimes lifting another up, and sometimes being the one lifted. All these experiences have shaped the Sisters into this community of genuine and very deep hospitality and love.
How can we as Benedictine Oblates do this? I know our work is outside of the Monastery, but how can we bring this much love to others when we Oblates are spread all over? By being spread all over we can meet and touch the lives of more people – just in sheer numbers. But how can we as Oblates spread this love and hospitality as deeply, genuinely, and unselfishly as these sisters? I guess this is our challenge…