In 2015 after my husband died in June, I had to confront the question of what I would do without him, who I would even be when our relationship had irrevocably changed, and he was no longer present. For over 26 years, most of my decisions about my life had necessarily taken him into account. Now, that was not the case. There was a loosening of what had anchored me in life for all those years. What now would be my anchorhold?
Having been a member of a peer group for spiritual directors for many years, and a reading group that had been meeting for a couple of years, there were a number of wonderful women who held my questions with me, with whom I could explore. It became clear that spiritual life was to be the main focus for me over the next years of my life.
For years I had been seeking greater growth in the spiritual dimension; fueled by an ever greater yearning within. During the months after Jim died, it became clear that I now had every opportunity to pursue an even deeper spiritual life. The spiritually kindred women in the peer and reading groups were kind and supportive. They provided me with space to explore what that might look like. At the same time, it was also going to be necessary to move from Joy Farm, my home of 27 years, because I could not maintain it as a single person. It seemed best to leave the Eau Claire area and move closer to family in the Madison area and Chicago. That would put me in proximity to Holy Wisdom Monastery*, an ecumenical Benedictine women’s monastery near Middleton, Wisconsin. I had attended retreats and conferences there over the years and had loved the atmosphere of the place for some time.
Through the years I had been fascinated with religious life, in fact, I had done some digging into information about programs that connected people to religious community even though separated by distance. At different times over the years, friends would tell me about being an oblate, or associate or member of a “third order.” I knew that Holy Wisdom had an oblate community and I was now in a position to look at what would be needed for me to become an oblate. So, in early 2016 I applied for a year of discernment about becoming an oblate – and was accepted as an oblate candidate. The year of discernment gives the candidate time and experience in ordering one’s life within a Benedictive community framework. This year of discernment involves learning about the framework of Benedictine life and values and practicing a rhythm of intention, mindfulness and balance before making a commitment to be an oblate. At Holy Wisdom the oblate candidate writes their own personal rule and makes promises to the community. After one is welcomed as an Oblate, these are renewed on a year by year basis. I became an Oblate Candidate, April of 2016.
Since then, it has been a time of intensity both internally for me and also in the external world. The election season has had a profound effect on public life, and many of us have struggled with the results. In a very few days, we will have a new president of our nation whose actions and statements challenge notions of intentionality, balance and stability. Never has it seemed so important to me to cling to and real-ize the values of Benedictine life. These values have in-formed people, men and women, lay and religious, over a period of one thousand years. They have provided guidance, strength and purpose during times of great darkness and have illumined the hearts and minds of those who seek to help and heal, to restore the broken, and to create, connect, and sustain the “beloved community” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. named it.
Over the next few posts, I will be examining some Benedictine values and pointing toward how they may help me and others of us to stay grounded and stable, hopeful and active in these times.
*For more information about Holy Wisdom Monastery, see http://benedictinewomen.org/