Sunday, the Benedictine Sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery celebrated the 25th Jublilee of Sr. Mary Nicolette Etienne, OSB, and Sr. Betty Jean Coveney, OSB.
Sr. Nicolette is my sister, and I had the great pleasure of spending a good part of the weekend with the sisters along with my family. Our Lady of Grace Monastery has been a part of our family since before I was born. My mother’s sister, Sr. Jeanne Voges, OSB, was a founding member of the community.
For the first time in a while, the whole family gathered Saturday afternoon to join the sisters for Evening Prayer. We then went to a local restaurant for a lovely dinner and evening together.
Sunday morning we gathered again with the sisters for Morning Prayer followed by breakfast. Then, we simply visited until time for the Jubilee Mass at 2:00.
Such moments give pause to reflect upon not only the life my sister chose, but upon the beauty of religious life in general. The readings of the 15th Sunday, Year C spoke beautifully of the journey of faith. Moses invited the people of Israel to return to a closer walk with God, challenging them to keep His commandments, stating that this life is “not too mysterious or remote.”
God is indeed the Great Mystery. Of all the mysteries of life and the mysteries that accompany our life- journey of faith, God is the Great Mystery. Initially, perhaps out of the zeal of youth and the eagerness of a Christian vocation, we can be uneasy with this Mystery. We want answers. Particularly when life throws up barriers and difficulties, we wonder about the value of the path we have chosen. We wonder why God is not more forthcoming with help or answers or direction.
But eventually, by God’s grace, we grow in our comfort to simply be grateful to be enveloped by the Mystery that is God. We by faith begin to recognize that the Light in the midst of the Mystery is none other than the Light of the Risen Christ. Not all that unlike Moses who saw the burning bush, aflame yet not consumed, this same Light speaks to us, leads us, This is the the Light of Christ and His Gospel.
The Rule of St. Benedict is full of instruction for living a life in communion with God. Several of the lines of this Rule mirror the teaching of Luke’s Gospel on the Good Samaritan, such as:
RB # 72:11 “Prefer nothing to Christ.”
RB #5:2 “cherish Christ above all”
RB 4:20 “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way.”
RB 4:8 “We can not exclude anyone. Every person we meet must be honored and loved as our brother or sister.”
RB72:4 “We can never wait for the other person to love us first. If we are the first to show love and respect, the others will follow.”
RB4 “We must prove our love with good works. Feelings and words are not enough. There are many concrete ways we can find to do this.
RB: Prologue 1: “We must listen with the ear of our heart to the burdens and joys of others. We need to feel in ourselves what the others are feeling.”
Finally, the day gave me the opportunity to not only affirm the jubilarians, but the whole community. The life of women religious is a mystery to many today. Yet, that does not negate the reality that their life is such a blessing to the Church and world. Their day-to-day life of prayer mysteriously opens other people to the mystery of God at work in their life. Their active life is a proclamation of their love for God in their service of so many people. In short, their life as women religious is a participation in the mystery of God.
Congratulations, Sr. Nicolette and Sr. Betty Jean! And Thanks to all the women religious who so faithfully witness to the presence of Christ in the world, and provide us with the support of their daily prayers! May you continue daily to seek Christ, serve Christ, and be Christ to one another and all!