Sister Ann Marie Wainright – Harmony and the Benedictine Life

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Sister Ann Marie Wainright – Harmony and the Benedictine Life

Not being a musically inclined person, I am always humbled by God’s graces imparted to me through singing with the Monastery Schola. The mere fact that I have learned as much as I have and have grown as much as I have since beginning to sing with the Schola this past February is, itself, no small miracle. The miracle of harmony, though, is what gives me pause most often.Many of the music pieces we sing are in three-part harmony. When we begin practicing a new hymn, it is often difficult to hear the beauty of the overall piece because of the work involved in learning my own part. I often have trouble appreciating the sound of my own voice and how it contributes to the harmonious sound of the Schola.Discerning a religious vocation can be a lot like learning the harmony part in a musical piece. Sometimes discerning women wonder, “Will my individual experiences and gifts harmonize with the Community, or will I sound like a sour note? Will my own voice be drowned out in the Community’s identity?”

The Rule and Harmony

 St. Benedict lived in a culture and time where social position and abilities determined one’s level of acceptance–much like our own modern world. In writing his Rule, St. Benedict emphasized a life for his monks based on the life of Christ. Monks were not accepted or rejected based on whom they knew, how much education they had, or what they had accomplished. All were children of God and all were regarded as Christ-bearers. Every individual has a unique contribution to make to the life of the whole; the whole supports the spiritual progress and the development of each individual seeking God among them.Our Community has a wonderful variety of “notes” making up the harmonious music of our life together. We have been housekeepers and teachers, cooks and nurses, scientists and spiritual directors, counselors and seamstresses. The beauty of Benedictine life is that no matter what we do or how we contribute to the good of all, we seek the face of God and we do it together.

God is the composer of our Benedictine lives together. God chooses and equips each of us to be the instruments that sing praise with our lives. When we listen with the “ear of our hearts,” we hear the beauty of our own lives and the harmony of all our lives joined together.Illustration from THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT ©   Meridith Schifsky, calligrapher, and Sister Mary Charles McGough, OSB, illuminator

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“Before all, and above all, attention shall be paid to the care of the sick, so that they shall be served as if they were Christ Himself.”
–St. Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of Saint Benedict