“There are many gifts but the same spirit.”
These past few days have been richly blessed. I was at Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, Kansas. This monastery holds great meaning to me. It is the place from which the women of Benet Hill Monastery ventured forth to found the place I now call home. It is here too, I have had the privilege of retreat steeped in prayer before taking each next step during my years of formation to become a perpetually professed sister at Benet Hill. Even though I am now fully professed, my time here seems always to beg the same question, what of the future?
Many are asking, does religious life even have a place in our modern world? How can ancient stories, ways and traditions speak to our world and will there be young women who will answer the call to live this life in earnest?
Most religious would say a resounding yes to the first question but are perplexed as to where to begin answering the second question.
Without being presumptuous, I would like to put my two cents in on the matter.
The second reading tells us that there are many gifts and yet there is only one spirit which has given these gifts. In religious terminology, we refer to the core values and the gifts any religious order holds and passes on as a charism. As Benedictines, our charism is conveyed to new members by living the gospels according to the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Benedict holds Christian community life as central therefore, Benedictines live in community. Benedict also emphasized the centrality of a community that prays together. Essential too, is that we eat together and welcome others to our table. And so hospitality is very important to us. We hold all things in common. We live under the Rule and a prioress. We are celibate. We are obedient to God, our prioress and one another. Living like this is not easy so we pray, and we pray, and we pray. And somehow, love seems to emerge and grow in ways we never imagined.
St. Benedict doesn’t say do big things, he doesn’t say that we are only worthy or relevant by making a huge mark on the world. That is popular culture that demands big accomplishments to be considered successful and worthwhile. Even then, the acclaim from big accomplishments is fleeting.
Yes, religious life is relevant now for the same reasons it was relevant for almost two thousand years because God desires faithful witnesses to the goodness of God and the goodness of human potential. Young people will hear the call as many of us heard the call, “Come, come follow me.” It whispers deep in the soul. God is insistent and persistent. “There are many gifts…But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as God wishes”. All we have to do is say yes.
Ana Cloughly, OSB