July’s “From the Pastor”: A Different Kind of Monastery

Dear friends in Christ,

I write this to you as I am preparing to embark on my eleven days away for continuing education and spiritual renewal at the Holy Wisdom monastery near Madison, Wisconsin. This is where the Ecumenical Center for Clergy Spiritual Renewal is located. Thank you again for your patience during my time away.

Some of you are probably wondering why a “monastery” would be willing to house me and a few dozen colleagues from churches around the country for this program. After all, monasteries are Catholic and monks live there, right??

Holy Wisdom Monastery is different. It’s home to a variety of different faith communities who take their inspiration from Benedictine monastic spirituality. A group of Benedictine sisters live, work, and pray there and welcome other single women to experience community there, either for a finite period of time or to make vows and join the order in their shared life. There is also a congregation that gathers for ecumenical worship (across Christian denominations) on Sundays and an “oblate community”–a group of men and women that gather together in prayer, work, leisure and study to grow spiritually and incorporate Benedictine spirituality into their lives.

So that’s all great, right, but what IS Benedictine spirituality? Benedict was a monk who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries C.E./A.D. As a young man, he witnessed the sacking of Rome by the Goth invaders and the chaos that surrounded his troubled world. Little did he know that he would have a part in helping Europe emerge from this chapter into a new age. He created a rule of life centered around the values of obedience, humility, moderation, simplicity, and the common good. Monks who followed the Rule of Benedict devoted roughly equal amount of their days to prayer, work, and study in order to benefit the entire monastic community as well as the individual soul. In fact, this pattern became the template on which many other monastic orders built their way of life.

Modern-day Benedictine orders are based on the Benedictine values of beauty, balance, simplicity, justice, silence and respect for all creation. Our time at Holy Wisdom will be spent in prayer and conversation, listening and study and worship, but we will also be working in the “savanah” (I’m not quite sure what to expect there) and doing manual labor to care for the land on which the monastery is located. Hospitality is one of their highest values, as it is for many monastic orders, and so they welcome spiritual retreatants and pilgrims of all kinds. There’s a lot more to read on their website if you are interested: benedictinewomen.org.

Personally, I am going there with one main goal: to listen to God. I love what we do here together at St. Peter’s, and I love that so much of it involves creating words through writing and speaking (I do love good words). However, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in doing the words that I forget to make time and space to listen.  I realize that I am blessed, honored, and privileged to have this time to go and listen and be spiritually renewed, and I’m very grateful to all of you and to the Lilly Foundation for making it possible. I look forward to sharing more with you about the experience when I return.

I pray that all of us who need this refreshment would receive it in some way! This is what God meant when God rested on the seventh day. The word “Sabbath” simply means to STOP. May we all find a way to STOP for even just a few seconds today, and listen to the voice of God.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

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