Swallows

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

As a small child growing up in southern California, we would take trips between Santa Ana and San Diego. Shortly before we would get to the Pacific Ocean, we would pass Mission San Juan de Capistrano, best known for its swallows “always” returning on the Feast of St. Joseph. To a five-year-old, this was wondrous. I developed a fondness for those little birds and the miracle of their return so touching. I loved the mud nests they made under the eaves. How resourceful and faithful. I had an “eye” for them.

Thirteen years later, on my first visit to a Benedictine monastery, we drove up into the hills above Santa Barbara on a very narrow switchback road. Upon our arrival, the monastery at once came into view, a beautiful Mediterranean-style building. We parked and walked up the gravel path to the entrance, rang the bell and waited. I looked up to see many swallows and their clay and straw nests. Immediately, Psalm 84 came into mind: “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God” (KJV). At that time, I was really one whose “soul longeth, yea, even fainteth” for God. I was a passionate seeker. I was the swallow who searched for a place for her nest.

Since that time, 65 years ago, the Benedictine life has claimed me, the monasteries always that special place. When we moved to Saint Joseph, Saint Benedict’s Monastery quickly became our spiritual dwelling place as it has for so many, some of whom are called to the Oblate Way of life. It is from lives refreshed, renewed and empowered in this place among these sisters that we become transfigured to live lives serving others.

Charles Preble, OblSB