Saturday, January 30, 2010

Receiving the Benedictine Habit

On January 25, 2010, with great joy, we received Sr. Kathryn as a novice as she was clothed in the Benedictine habit. The novice’s habit is differentiated from that of a professed nun by a white veil and a shorter scapular. She will remain a novice for two years during which time she will discern her call more deeply with our community and prepare for professing temporary vows. The following is a reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe given to the community the night before the clothing ceremony.

A postulant who is ready to be clothed is one who has gone through a period when she’s discovered that life in the monastery isn’t exactly easy and yet it’s very fulfilling because it calls us to something greater than ourselves. A novice is changed in her appearance. She puts away the world and steps into community. She lays aside the things that she could rightly have before but no longer can because in a community all things belong to each other.

In the Rule of St Benedict it says, “Do not grant new comers to the monastic life an easy entry, but…. test the spirits to see if they are from God.” That’s one of those things a novice has had to do over her period of time with us--to discern what is of God and what is not. St Benedict says later in the Rule that the “concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials. The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead him to God.” St Benedict does not say away from God, but to God, because when things are difficult it’s not by leaving God but by going to God that we discover the source of the strength which God gives us to persevere.

A vocation isn’t something we decide we have. It’s a God-given gift. In clothing a new novice our community expresses that it has discerned that the novice is searching for God, and so is invited more fully into the life of the Abbey of St. Walburga. During this time of trial for her, she will be asked to truly live a life of conversion, obedience, and stability. All of these things will bring her to a point in her life in which she will discover that our greatest trials will be to live with our own weaknesses. For at first it will appear that it’s everybody else’s fault and then over a period of time, by the light of Christ, we are able to recognize that it’s harder to live with ourselves and our weaknesses-- it isn’t about everybody else. That discovery takes a lifetime, a lifetime of self-knowledge. And it takes courage. To live with one another, to forgive one another and to appreciate one another. That’s what will happen.

She is clothed now, and over a period of time, her soul will be clothed. That’s what we all hope for, that the virtues eventually take such root in our souls that our souls will be clothed with Christ. We are called to continually lay down or lives to “Prefer nothing to the Love of Christ.” A nun must have that goal before her. It must always be Christ, everything we do is in order to follow Christ. Obedience, stability, conversion can be difficult, but it is made sweet in Christ. In our heart we lay aside everything for Him.

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