Today our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise to God who has given us fifty years of monastic life here at Benet Hill Monastery. The walls of our worship space are clothed with peace banners. The shofar will announce the clarion call of Jubilee. Sister Clare, our prioress, will proclaim: “You shall sound [proclaim] the shofar throughout the land. You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the year of Jubilee for [all] of you.” (Lev. 25: 8-9) And we will respond with joy and thanksgiving the song of jubilation, the Te Deum!
In the introduction of a beautiful book entitled The Litany of the Great River, one of our poets of the southwest, Meinrad Craighead writes: “The psalmists sang songs of remembering. Songs of thanks- giving are songs of remembering. We give memories to our souls and our souls weave them, thread by thread, into the amazing garment of our unique identity.”
The identity of this community is contained in the multiple memories each of us hold dear to our hearts. Today’s Scripture from the book of Ezekiel portrays the wonderful story of the beginnings of our community. Like the tender topmost branch of the cedar tree, we were lifted with care from Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas and placed on a high and lofty mountain here in Colorado fifty years ago. (I will always remember the two buses that escorted us ‘overnight’ to our new home in Colorado Springs; Sister Marian and I — being the youngest — carried the two flats of fresh eggs ‘carefully’ which would become part of our breakfast the next morning.)
The Gospel of Mark tells us how Jesus taught the crowds about the kingdom of God using the image of the man who planted the seed and experienced its growth — from seed, blade, ear and full grain for harvest — and the tiny mustard seed which will ultimately provide a sacred space of hospitality.
In humble gratitude I would like to share a reflection of my personal memories of five women who have been special graces within our community:
- How the small tender branch was planted and watered, tended and deeply rooted in the Word of God and the Rule of Benedict, as it began to grow under the powerful prayer-filled guidance of our first prioress, Sister Liguori Sullivan;
- How the young cedar was mulched, pruned and continued to be nourished, as it began to blossom forth with the new growth of greening boughs and different forms of new life and ministry with the gentle listening and response of our second prioress, Sister Mary John Thomas;
- How the cedar has continued to mature, putting forth stronger boughs creating a safe shelter for those who had no place to go, weathering the storms of our time and culture, and bearing the fruit of a growing awareness of a new wave of consciousness with the global vision of our third prioress, Sister Naomi Rosenberger;
- How the mustard seed sprang up, grew and put forth large branches of being with and for the community, as we entered into deep discernment: looking at our passion for monastic life, our needs for the future, and a new vision of monasticism with our fifth prioress, Sister Rose Ann Barmann;
- And how, today, the mustard seed continues to grow with the hospitality of flowering branches now housing new homes for shared leadership, ministry that moves into the larger world, worship that has expanded and a purposeful movement toward sustainability in membership and inclusivity with our seventh prioress, Sister Clare Carr.
I/we remember and give thanks…
Anne Stedman, OSB