Thus, for nearly 1,500 years, Benedictines around the world have been chanting the Divine Office and keeping alive the light of learning. In 1852, three Bavarian nuns braved the tempestuous storms of the North Atlantic; made port; settled at St. Mary's, Pennsylvania; and established a school for young children.
Five years later, a group of these intrepid pioneers sailed up the Mississippi to establish a a convent in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Six years passed while they set down roots. Then, in 1863, the abbot of the Benedictine monastery in Atchison, Kansas, invited them to come and teach the children of this frontier river town.
Seven of the Minnesota nuns traveled by train down to Missouri, crossed the river, established a convent, and began to teach children from both the neighboring farms and the burgeoning town. Sixty years later, in 1923, they opened a college for women.
It was that college from which I graduated in May 1958. It was that Atchison convent I entered a month later. There, I praised the God who I believed had beckoned me to the life of a nun. Back, back, back, I could trace the path that had led to that chapel in which I prayed.
In her comment on Tuesday’s blog, Susan said she found herself wanting “to be a part of that time where focusing on God was a full time involvement.” I’d never before thought of that time in that way. But the words ring true to me. Daily I focused all my attention on God. And if, today, I view God and life differently from then, that does not negate the purity of my intent when I was twenty-two.
Yet always, during those eighteen months in the novitiate, a thread of indecision ran through the tapestry of my intent. In my next two or three postings, I'll share with you the doubts that riddled me as the idealism of my youth warred with the reality that was the convent.
The truth I share with you today is that, despite everything, each evening at Compline I let go of doubt and settled into the peace that spanned those fifteen centuries from Benedict at Subiaco, just forty miles from Rome and the Tiber, to Dee Ready in Atchison, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Missouri River. That centuries-old peace permeated the very words I chanted to end the day.(Continued on Tuesday . . .)
PS: If you'd like to see one of the stained-glass windows of the choir chapel,
click here. It will take you to the convent web site.
The window on that page depicts Scholastica and Benedict at prayer.
Photo of sails from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net