At a recent retreat for women discerning religious life held here at the Monastery, one of the attendees asked about what was challenging for us as Sisters in initial formation. The day being broken into many pieces and having to stop what one is working on to do something, or go somewhere, else was a common response.
I could relate to that. More than just inconvenience, there is also a loss of the sense of control one has over one’s life and choices. In the process of laying down what one might feel is important to do, a piece of who one is, is set aside, too. That’s hard, really hard.
American culture values individualism and doing over communality and presence. We often identify ourselves by what we own, whom we know, or what work we do. To stop working on what I want to do in favor of what is best for all of us, including me, can initially be quite a challenge to one’s ego and self-esteem.
I once saw a video of Henri Nouwen speaking about God proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Fr. Nouwen emphasized that our identities should never be tied up in the work we do, the things we have, or the approval and acceptance we get from other people. Who we are is God’s Beloved.
In a monastic community, the bells toll to summon us to prayer and to Eucharist throughout the day. Those bells and their sacred pauses center me in God and in my Community. They remind me of who I am – God’s Beloved. They give meaning and focus to my work – bringing God’s life, love, and peace to broken hearts in a broken world. The call of the bells is a call to purity of heart – a heart set on seeing what God sees and loving what God loves.
In answering the call of the bells to remember God throughout my day, I remember who I am, too.
Sorry…gotta go now. The bells are calling me…
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.
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