Five Years Later, a Review

There is a sister in our community who is quite remarkable in her ability to keep track of even the smallest anniversaries. Although one might want to roll her eyes when being reminded that it’s the seventeenth anniversary of the day when the community first used the blue tablecloths, you cannot help but appreciate the sentimental side of these celebrations. (And, I might be exaggerating anyway.)

Today marks five years since I packed up my beloved Chevy Malibu and drove from one corner of the state to the other, moving into the monastery to begin my journey into the Benedictine life.

I know this because I just filled in the final space in my five-year journal that I purchased before I moved to Erie. Knowing that the formation process was around five years, give-or-take, and seeing it online a month or so prior, I knew this little book would be a good use of my still-existing-at-that-time bank account.
Each page lists a day of the year at the top and has five lined spaces underneath for each year to fill in with a few memories about the day. I remember filling it in during those early days, wondering so many things, and now that it’s completely filled, it chronicles what has been an overall joyful span of time, full of some growth and many beautiful relationships.
As I was reflecting on my day yesterday, deciding what to write, I thought of something I’d heard. One of my sisters defined monasticism as a “rhythm of life that fosters mindfulness.” Perfectly-stated. Yesterday went a bit like this: after morning praise, I sat down with extra coffee and Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, a fictional take on Jesus’ wife, named Ana. I rode my bike to the office and had two conversations with sisters who I consider wisdom figures in my life. I headed over to the soup kitchen where I began to make meat sauce, as I was preparing fourteen lasagnas to serve for dinner that evening with some help from others. I interacted with staff members, as well as people simply dropping off donations. We cut up fresh vegetables from the garden to use in the salad, and some oblates who I consider friends came to help serve the meal. Then I rode my bike back home before evening prayer. I had a meeting for some ministry work I am doing, and I helped a friend with a little project after dinner. If there’s ever been a day that I would define as “monastic,” it would look quite a bit like my day yesterday.
As I wound down for the night, I decided to go back to my journals from August 2015 and reflect on where I was when I set out on the path half a decade ago. I found this entry from a week before my move:

I cannot help but believe that I am doing the exact right thing. I need to practice being comfortable in challenging conversations. I need to practice being okay with vulnerability. I need to practice living into the moment without my brain taking over. I need to practice knowing that things are okay. And, I know that Erie, with this community, is the place to practice these things.

Looking back, I think I was right to say all of those things—because the sentiment in the hymn we sang this morning at prayer captures it all:

Gathered in the love of Christ,
We are one in the family of God,
We are the dwelling place that love has made,
We are formed to be goodness and light in the world.

God is light in God there is no darkness,
Let us walk in the light of life,
If we live in God, then we must love each other,
Ever follow the way of truth and life.
(Marty Haugen)

We are fostering mindful lives of prayer and relationship in this community, in ways that make God’s light visible to others. I am grateful to be here, continuing to practice “this little path for beginners” that Benedict gifted us 5×300 years ago.
Let us walk in the holy presence.
Still so grateful to live by the lake!