Sister Mary Catherine Shambour – My Twenty-four Hour Lessons

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Sister Mary Catherine Shambour – My Twenty-four Hour Lessons

Monastery Hibiscus photo by Sister Mary Catherine Shambour

     Each morning as I wend my way to work in the office, I pass through our spacious community room graced with windows and sunlight on two sides.  I scarcely take note of the old hibiscus plant standing on the floor in the corner of the room, its scraggly branches and sparse leaves too familiar to summon my attention.

      However, periodically throughout the entire year she chides me for my inattention by pirouetting before me the depths of her ageless inner beauty in the form of one — and sometimes even two — flashy, saucer-sized, reddish orange flowers that lure me to pause and hear her message.

      I’m caught!  Like Moses, I must come and gaze at this flash of mystery.  As I stand face-to-face with the full-blown flower, I am mesmerized by the intricate beauty of its design and the subtle brilliance of its color.  I want to fall on my knees in admiration and thanksgiving and at the same time also beg forgiveness for so seldom noting God’s beauteous gifts surrounding us everywhere.  I want to clasp this delicate flower to myself, absorb some of her perfection into myself and possess her forever. 

     Then a sudden shock of reality comes over me.  I recall that the flower of an hibiscus plant blooms only for twenty-four hours!  How can this be?  How unfair that something so exquisite will be gone tomorrow!  Is God just playing games with us?  Next comes flooding into my mind a steady progression of other beauties and joys of my life that have already come and gone.  With a sigh, I say good-bye to this harbinger and move on to the day’s tasks.

      I’ll come by again tomorrow but already know that I’ll avoid looking in the direction of the hibiscus plant where all her today’s glory will be sealed shut, limply hanging, waiting to be discarded, having gloriously fulfilled her role in the Master Planner’s scheme of things.  And I’ll go back to my work giving thanks to God for tactfully reminding me once again not to cling too tightly to the fading joys of this life, but to long for those which eye has not yet seen but which will last forever.




Vocations Director, Sister Mary Catherine Shambour, OSB  

Sister Mary Catherine Shambour

Sister Mary E.Catherine Shambour currently serves as Vocation Director Minister for St. Scholastica Monastery. She had had many years of experience teaching on the secondary and college levels, and has frequently traveled to Russia and the Soviet Union as a student, teacher, tour leader, and volunteer church worker. See all of Sister Mary Catherine’s posts.



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“Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”
–Henri Nouwen