One Day Within Your Courts Is Better Than A Thousand Elsewhere...continued
WORK - COMPLINE
It may seem a bit odd to speak of our monastic observance of work during this season of silence and watchful waiting. Given that these days are probably some of the busiest of the year you might say it is very appropriate!
For us work is not about a 9-5 job! While our first work is that of prayer, good ole work has a very important place in the monastic day! The challenge is to not let it become the priority! Not easy in a culture that values what a person does over who a person is!
In our Constitutions work is associated with the work of Redemption: "Rejoicing that they can fulfill the design of the Creator and be associated with the work of the Redeemer, the nuns should readily give themselves to work with all their powers of mind and heart as well as their gifts of nature and grace."
The formal periods of work—and work can be both physical and intellectual—are from 9-11:30 AM and 4-5:30 PM. However, work as is observed in the monastery is not a 9-5 job but more that of living in a family. There is always something that needs to be done in service to one another! Our added challenge is to do what most people do in 8 hours in 4 hours! One of the things learned in the novitiate is to be creative with a spare 5 minutes here and there and you find that you can get a lot done!
After Terce those who have had their breakfast clean up the dishes while others are helping the older sisters with their meal. Sr. Maureen might be in the outside chapel area tidying the gift shop, etc. The sacristan is finishing up and getting ready for the next day.
Work formally begins at 9 AM and it is understood that the time from after Terce until then can be used as "free time" for whatever a sister wishes. It's time for a quick walk, a trip to the library, mending, and yes, some have been known to catch a lost 40 winks! (Nuns can sleep anytime, anywhere!)
Sisters assigned to the kitchen begin their preparations. The bursar (Sr. Mary Martin) faces the daunting challenges of her job. If you are on Adoration at 9 AM you will see the sewing room light go on and you know that Sr. Mary Amata is beginning her work. If it is Monday the novitiate sisters assigned to the laundry will be busy doing the community laundry that they started before Mass.
The sisters in the "soap room" get started as soon as they can and during this season that means right after Terce! The soap room proper and the shipping area which "rents" space from the print shop is in total, creative chaos mostly because there isn't enough room!
There is no such thing as the "weekend" in the monastery and Saturdays are the busiest days of the week. It's the day when dirty clothes are brought to the laundry. Cleaning is usually done on this day and the halls are sometimes obstacle courses because of mops, piles of dirty towels from the bathrooms and Sisters simply trying to CLEAN! All this in preparation for the Lord's Day which begins with First Vespers Saturday night. From then on we go into "Sunday mode".
Most Sisters spend the afternoon optional recreation time relaxing but some sisters need to use that time to start supper preparations or continue their morning work. Except for the Sister scheduled to answer the "turn" (the portress) nearly everyone heads to her cell for what is known as "Profound Silence" or siesta at 1:30 PM.. It is a time of greater silence and solitude for a nap, reading, praying or a working quietly. From 3-4 PM we have Office of Readings, None and Meditation and then the monastery begins to hum again with the Sisters back at their assignments until Vespers at 5:30.
After Vespers and Supper is a period for study and the monastery is amazingly quiet! Some sisters spend this time in Choir, a few in the library but most go to their cells.
At 7:45 the bell rings for community recreation. This is a time when we gather together and talk, play games, talk some more and in the summertime go for a walk. Sisters also make rosaries or package soap products or if there is a mailing that needs to go out they fill as they talk. (Well some sisters mostly talk and fill a little!)
Compline follows. Some sisters who need to, do some work after Compline (like Sr. Blogger) but we keep that to an absolute minimum because this is the time of Profound Silence when we not only prepare for bed but we prepare our hearts and minds to begin another day of prayer and adoration.
One common complaint to cloistered nuns is, "You don't help anyone in service, you just pray!" Putting aside that prayer is a very important and necessary way to help others our work in the monastery is one way we help others. First, we serve and help each other! A monastery is not a group of women united by blood ties. We are not related to each other. In fact, at one time we were total strangers! However, it is Christ who unites us and makes us one in Him. So, our service to each other out of love is an important witness to each other and to others.
Our work is mostly very simple and ordinary and that of our Lady of Nazareth who also had to cook and clean for her holy family. Our work takes on a double meaning because by our solemn profession EVERYTHING we do is consecrated and is a form of worship and praise to God! This consecration raises these ordinary task to a new meaning that even we often can't see or comprehend! So, taking out the trash, sweeping up the crumbs, doing the books for the month, dealing with computer problems or sewing a habit are powerful tools for the salvation of souls.
Most of us in the monastery truly prefer simple, manual work because it frees our minds to think of Christ. However, some of us, do have to preoccupied with things that take a lot of concentration and that is OK because if we do them in a spirit of love and service we are using our minds in a way that God intended and our work is a sacrifice of praise.