So it has officially been one month since I entered with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters and moved to Norfolk, NE! I thought it would be a good time to give a quick update on life in the monastery now that I have a little experience under my belt.
First off, I LOVE IT! Everything has seemed so natural to me, it just feels like I have been doing this my whole life, which I am taking as a sign that I am right where God wants me to be! So what have I been up to? (Fair warning this will likely be a lengthy post since so much has happened in the last month.)
My family drove me to Nebraska on Saturday, January 13th. We had many laughs in the car as we tried to fit all of my stuff, plus all of us in the car…it was quite comical. My poor mom was like a sardine in the back of the car, squished by all of the stuff piled around her. There were also tears a plenty when it came time for them to actually leave. I was filled with every emotion you can think of, but most of all excitement and happiness at this next step.
Saturday evening and all of Sunday was just time for Teresa and I to relax and kind of get settled. (I say “kind of” because we didn’t actually move into our official rooms until a few days later, more on that to come). We had quite a bit of time to just pray and really soak in the fact that we were finally here!
On January 15th (Feast of Sts. Maur and Placid – who were among the first disciples of St. Benedict) was the official entrance day. So while I technically moved on the 13th, we had the official entrance ceremony two days later. The morning was time for prayer and then in the afternoon, time to get everything we had unpacked, repacked and get changed into our uniform. Funny story about this day – since everything had been stuffed in suitcases for a few days Teresa and I thought it would be a good idea to fluff our shirts and she wanted to throw her skirt in as well. We were quickly reminded why you keep lights and darks separate in the wash…Teresa’s previously black skirt had undergone quite the transformation and was now a very lent covered white skirt with hints of black underneath…OOPS! It was on this day that we dubbed the term #nunningishard – a phrase that we use quite often around here now! 😂
The ceremony consisted of Teresa and I knocking on the door of the Chapter Room (Side note, Teresa is the one who entered with me, so you will likely hear me talk about her a bit.), where we were greeted by the rest of the community and Sr. Pia (the prioress) asked us “What do you seek?” To which we responded “I seek to follow God’s will for my life within this community.” She then escorted us to our seats while the community sang a song. From there she asked us to stand and asked us if we were entering of our own free will and were we willing to live by the statutes of the community and under the direction of Sr. Gabrielle Marie. We answered “I am.” Then she invited us forward where we received our bibles and a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict. Finally we were officially welcomed by the community and every sister came forward to give us a hug and greet us. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time.
When you enter you officially become “ranked” based on your “canonical age” (which is just a fancy way of saying, who has been here longest), well since Teresa and I entered on the same day it was all based on who arrived to the monastery first on move in day. This means that while Teresa is older than me by two years biologically, I am canonically older than her and in all processions I go in before her. It is funny because of the three of us who have not made vows yet, we are exactly reversed on actual age versus canonical age. So Laura who is 22 has been here for 1.5 years and is “oldest” canonically, followed by me (27) and finally Teresa (29). Laura jokes that the youngest canonically has to pray hardest for more vocations so that they aren’t the baby of the community any more!
After supper that evening we were officially welcomed to our new rooms on the “other side of the doors” (called the cloister – and only the sisters and members of the community are allowed in this area). I was pretty exhausted after all of this so after we had a short recreation time, I grabbed a few of the items I would need for the morning and headed off to bed.
The first week was spent in an orientation of sorts. So in the mornings we would meet up with Sr. Gabrielle Marie for instructions and she would show us around different parts of the house we had never been before, showed us where to find certain things and how things worked within the house. We spent most of our days getting unpacked and sewing numbers on to all of our clothes. The numbers are for the laundry. We all have a different number so that when we send our clothes down they know who it belongs to so that it comes back to the right person. I am number 75. Any-who, we had strips of fabric that have the number embroidered on them and then we just sewed that piece of fabric to anything that we would send through the wash…it was quite tedious and while I made good progress, I am still not done sewing, but I got done with everything that I would need for a while, the rest are just odds and ends that I don’t use very often, so some rainy day I will sit down and get that stuff taken care of.
We also went for a tour of the town so we could get the lay of the land. We went to the DMV to get our drivers licenses updated to the new address/state. I had to go twice…since I am coming from out of state I had to have proof of citizenship…we didn’t know that so after lunch Sr. Gabrielle Marie and I went back after lunch for a round two for me, passport in hand the second time. We also got library cards to the local public library and I have already checked out and read two books from there…not to mention the others I have read from my own collection and from the library here at the monastery. For those that don’t know…I LOVE to read, in fact a few years back I read over 170 books in one year alone! I have started a new list to see how many I can read in my first year here…I have finished 4 so far and I am currently reading 5 others! (Yes, I am reading 5 books at once, no I don’t get them confused, they are all very different topics!) 😁 We also made our first Wal-Mart run for a few things we forgot or realized that it would be nice to have (like a garment bag for the laundry so that we don’t have to sew numbers to every sock!)
The second week we really got into our normal daily routine. That is probably the biggest question I get, “what do you do all day?” So, here is a glance at a day in the life.
- 5:30am – Wake-up and get ready for the day.
- 6:25am – Lauds (Morning Prayer)
- 7:00am – Mass
- 7:30-8:30am – Breakfast (Most days we eat breakfast on our own and at our own pace. So everything is set out and after Mass we go down when we are ready and eat in silence and at your leisure. On Sundays and Solemnities/Feasts we eat breakfast together.)
- 8:30-11:30am – Work. I am currently assigned to housekeeping. So two days a week I am with Sr. Monica and we clean various areas within the cloister that the sisters use in common. The other three days a week I do the breakfast dishes and then meet with with the ladies who we employ (Kalen, Janelle and Janet) to clean the rest of the building. It is something different every day and it all just kind of depends on who/what we had going on the previous weekend and who/what will be coming in the following weekend. We run a retreat/spirituality center so we host retreats almost every weekend of varying sizes.
- 11:30-11:45am – short break to get cleaned up from the morning. On the days I work with the ladies I don’t wear my uniform so I have to change back into my skirt and whatnot during this time.
- 11:55am – Mid-Day Prayer
- 12:05pm – Dinner (This still sometimes confuses me. We call Lunch “Dinner” and Dinner “Supper”)
- 12:45-2:00pm – Free Time (depending on the day I will either go for a walk, read a book, take a nap or work on some project [crochet, quilting, etc.])
- 2:00-3:00pm – Class (the current schedule looks like this this: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday – Vatican II, Tuesday – Life of St. Benedict, Friday – Liturgy of the Hours. This will change as the year progresses and we will have different classes)
- 3:00-4:30pm – Free Time
- 4:30-5:00pm – Lectio (this is time for spiritual reading, some read from scripture, others from a spiritual book)
- 5:30pm – Vespers (Evening Prayer)
- 6:00pm – Supper
- 6:45-7:30pm – Recreation (Depending on the night this also varies, anything from time in the quilt room, to watching a movie, to playing a board game or cards, to just sitting and talking while we crochet/knit. Two nights a week we also have free nights, so on this evening we can choose to either do something as a group or if we would just like some personal time we can do that as well.)
- 7:30pm – Compline (Night Prayer)
- After night pray we observe silence until the following morning after breakfast. This means that we try to avoid talking in the hallways and keep just a general silence, even in our rooms. Basically it is a time for people to either go straight to bed, or to begin to move in that general direction. Those of us in formation typically get together on most nights to do some sort of exercise video (Tae Bo, Yoga, Dance, etc.), however, some nights we just go to our rooms, read and go to bed early. Grand Silence is at 10:00pm so we are all in our rooms and quiet by that time.
While there is a pretty basic structure to everyday, it also changes and varies quite a bit day to day just depending on what is going on. For instance, one of the first weeks here we had quite the blizzard (12 inches, but the drifts were anywhere from 12-22 in areas) and many of our employees in housekeeping, laundry and the kitchen were unable to make it in, so we have to adapt and just go wherever is necessary to make sure everything is covered to an extent. We also like to have fun, so that same week we took an afternoon off from class and went sledding. There is a sister here from Brazil on assignment and she had never seen snow until moving here, so we convinced her to come sledding with us, and she LOVED it!
The last few days have been quite the party for us because February 10th is the feast of St. Scholastica, which we celebrate as a Solemnity! (For those unfamiliar with St. Scholastica, she is the sister of St. Benedict – click here for more information about her). So on Friday evening our brother monks from Schuyler came for Vespers, Supper and Recreation. Then on Saturday we had quite the feast at all of our meals, with lots of desserts and candies. And of course Sunday is always a celebration! We were joking at Dinner today that we are all going to be in for a rude awaking on Wednesday when we fast and abstain in observance of the start of Lent and Ash Wednesday!
So that is just a brief look at my day to day routine. During my free time I am learning how to crochet and quilt (as I mentioned before). I have already made one stocking cap and I have two quilts in the works. Neither are for me, but they are surprises, so I can’t say more than that! 😁 All in all, I am loving every moment. There have definitely been challenges along the way:
- My grandpa passed away last week, so I went home for the funeral.
- 5:30am is REALLY early for someone who is not a morning person and could sleep all day if I had the option.
- There is also a pretty nasty cold/flu bug going around here that I caught. I was one of the lucky ones and only got a cold for about two days before I was back to my normal self again – others have not been as lucky and it kind of lingers on for a few weeks.
Any ways, I think I covered everything that has happened so far, but if anyone has questions or would like me to write more about any specific portion of the life please let me know, otherwise I will just write the next post when the mood strikes me!
In Christ, through Mary,
(Please forgive any typos that may have been overlooked, it is hard to type this on an iPad! 🙃)