Why Did I enter the Monastery?
It’s still a mystery! What I consider my monastic ‘call’ came after a period of a deep crisis of faith that left me very miserable. A friend suggested I go for a week of retreat. After some resistance, I eventually decided to follow up on the advice and went to a Cistercian Monastery, Our Lady of Nazareth, in Brecht Belgium. There I was given a book to read from Dom Marmion called, Christ, The Life of the Soul. As I finished it, I came to the conclusion: To live the life of Christ is of great worth. I made the decision to pursue this, not knowing what it would ask of me. Yet at the same time, I was offered a three-year teaching opportunity in Congo, which I considered as a period of discernment. Returning to Belgium, I entered the monastery of Our Lady of Nazareth where I had first read Dom Marmion’s book and received my initial monastic formation there. Then after 6 years, I was asked and accepted to be part of a new monastery to be founded in the United Statesm Our Lady of the Redwoods in Whitethorn, California.
Why do I stay in the monastery?
The transfer to Redwoods Monastery was very important for me. It coincided with the opening of Vatican II, which brought many changes in religious life. Chief among them was the use of the vernacular in the liturgy and daily readings from the Bible. This transformed my view of scripture as merely historical texts to sacred writings that reveal the soul, leading to a deeper knowledge of God and of who I am.
I have also found the following monastic values and practices important to deepening my commitment. As monastics, we follow the ancient 6th century Rule of St Benedict. Now we interpret the rule in a contemporary context and find that it offers a more healthy structure for monastic life. Openness to the world rather than total separation from it allows for increased connections and fosters unification while respecting differentiation. We have seen this in inter-religious dialogue and on many other levels. ‘The growing emphasis on respect for nature and its beauty is also a teacher for life. Prayer isn’t exclusively an ongoing request for various intentions, but has become a living in God’s presence. Community life, with its service to one another is in itself a school for self-knowledge. Lectio divina (divine reading) helps greatly to learn from those who have gone before us. Manual labor by involving the body keeps a healthy balance in our life while also serves the community. Silence and solitude keeps us in touch with our depths. Hospitality is a way to welcome others who want to share and deepen the values that we live by in monastic life.
If I stay in the monastery, it is not because I want to achieve something. It is a way of life, of transformation, of moving with consciousness and commitment toward the ultimate reality of Being, which is God: One, Love, and Life, following the teachings of Jesus. It talks place through the daily ordinary events of life and is part of the evolution process I want to share in and pass on to others.
Sr Godelieve, OSCO, December 2017