Early in June, a large group of sisters and a small group of oblates were directed in retreat by Mary Stommes, an oblate of Saint Benedict’s Monastery. After a brief introduction on Sunday evening to the theme “Listen: Does Wisdom not Call?”, the schedule for the following week was established. Twenty-five-minute conferences were scheduled at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day except for Wednesday afternoon, when the Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered to participants.
Yearly, Benedictines “make a retreat” as an opportunity for spiritual renewal. Over time, oblates have realized the wonderful opportunity, as well, and have begun to join the community. In early times, an abbot or a priest was asked to be the “retreat master,” but more recently, an oblate or a theological lecturer, or maybe even an author, has been asked to share their wisdom or their experiences with us.
In fact, I recall that Terrence Kardong, OSB, was here one year when I was really interested in his many studies and works on the Holy Rule. More recently, Mary Forman, OSB, from Idaho, as retreat director was a delightful experience for me and the community because she had lived among us for a few years. She was well-known and beloved.
Other times, the Lifelong Formation Committee prepares a list of five or six retreat opportunities that are available during the summer and perhaps early fall. We each register for the one that attracts us most keenly. The Holy Spirit, no doubt, pulls us to the one that will most likely be the spiritual renewal we need at just this time. Therefore, I submit that oblate Mary Stommes, as a lay woman, mother and student of St. Benedict, was exactly what many people in the community needed at this time. She drew on experiences and stories from her own life and related them to Scripture and the Holy Rule in a way that was new to us—new and refreshing.
We have been gifted with a sense of the Sacred in our daily lives, as seen and experienced by one among us whose lens is slightly different from ours in community. Thus, a new dimension of the sacred is our gift.
Mary Jane Berger, OSB
Photo: A space to relax at the Spirituality Center, taken by Amanda Hackett