There was a time in our community, that following our brother-friars, we would choose a communal penance before each Lent. This was always a challenge with 20+ women of every age from the 20's to the 90's. We used to say that the Chapter to choose the penance was THE penance for Lent. Eventually, we dropped this practice as we reflected on what our community Lenten practices actually are!
The fact is, that while choosing a personal penance for Lent is a good thing, I think that many of us find that each Lent it is a case of "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you!" This Lent seems especially so for our monastic community.
As you know, Lent had barely begun when we were brought into that great drama of the going Home to the Father of our dear Sr. Virginia Mary. There was sadness and grief of sorts, but really, more a pervading sense of joy in what she now knows and experiences. Over the past week or so we've been sorting out her belongings, cleaning out the many holy cards, notes, etc. that filled her choir books (We always teased her about this!) These are put out for the sisters to take and usually we find some card of a deceased sister that speaks in a personal way that we include in our own collection.
These past 2 weeks illness has been the theme of our Lenten journey. Our Sr. Mary Catharine is recovering from thyroid surgery. No sooner was she home from the hospital that Sr. Mary John was diagnosed with shingles and is still suffering from them. (Her sense of humor remains solidly unaffected!)
Then last week, Sr. Maria Agnes went to our sister monastery in the Bronx to give the community some lectures on St. Catherine of Siena. Sr. Denise Maria decided to go along for a few days of needed retreat. However, in God's Providence it was meant to be other wise. Sr. Maria Agnes fell down the stairs one morning before Lauds and has been hospitalized. Our beautiful sisters at Corpus Christi Monastery have been so generous in their time and care doing everything for Sr. Maria Agnes and Sr. Denise Marie. She is doing OK and will be transferred to a rehab near us sometime next week.
We took a collective breath only to find that our Sr. Mary Ellen Timothy was to be hospitalized and will be having a number of tests. She is in her 80's and no matter how many accidents and aliments hit her she bounces right back! This year she will be celebrating her 50th anniversary of profession and we hope that God will keep her with us so we can celebrate with her!
All these things have necessitated changes in schedules especially in the kitchen, turn duty and adoration. It can be a bit of a feat at times but it challenges us to a greater self-sacrifice and generosity. When the "Fill In" list goes up it can be tempting to let others sign up first, or take the least thing that will least incommode me. These times in community, like in families, provide the perfect opportunity to deny oneself and to imitate our Spouse who gave His life up for me. Did he not tell us to deny ourselves daily?
We share this news first, to ask your prayers for the recovery to health of our sisters and secondly, so that you can see our life through all its various "windows". Sometimes it may look like everything is always just so nicely arranged and that we are spared life's sorrows. If that were so you could justifiably ask if we were really Christians! The Cross is in the life of each of us and on this Laetare Sunday, the Church reminds us that it is always the source of our joy and hope! THAT makes all the difference!