July 11, the Feast of Saint Benedict, is the 10th anniversary of my perpetual monastic profession and the 13th anniversary of my first monastic profession. It’s a significant date. Every day of my life is precious to me, but this is one of those key dates that make me pause for thought. Right now, I’m asking myself the question, “Why am I still here?”
The answers don’t leap out. When I was called to monastic life, it was very clear to me that this was “it.” About six weeks after my perpetual profession, I was suddenly overcome with a panicky feeling of “I can’t believe I’ve done this.” The things that had before simply seemed to be necessary parts of answering God’s call, things like leaving my home and the people I loved who’d known me most of my life, loomed much larger once I’d crossed the line and actually, finally promised that the monastery was where I would spend the rest of my life. It felt scary.
I also started to be more easily irritated by the daily happenings in my life now that I’d made the forever promise. For several years, I kept a suitcase packed with essentials so that if it all got too much, I could sneak out in the dead of night without telling anyone and just disappear. Yet, I never did that. Why?
Firstly, I was held by the fact that I’d promised stability, fidelity to the monastic life, and obedience to this community. I discovered that I found promising something so sacred meant that I felt bound to honor my promises. In addition, I realized that there were now people here that I loved, just as I loved people back home, and that if I left, the monastery would always tug at my heartstrings. I learned that I’d chosen a life which meant that whether I was in the monastery or back home, I would also feel the pull of the other.
Secondly, and only quite recently, I accepted that the daily rhythm of my life, the round of prayer, work, leisure, the cycle of the liturgical year, which I have sometimes found frustrating, have somehow entered into the fabric of my being. I say this despite the fact that I have quite a volatile relationship with Liturgy of the Hours, our community prayer. Sometimes, I long for more time for personal prayer or feel the psalms are somebody else’s words and I’d like to use my own. I cherish the fact that I haven’t simply sunk into turning up for LOH without giving it a thought. I reflect on it, because I believe that how my relationship with it has matured and why it’s now occupying a more anchorlike position in my life.
Finally, I know that I stay because this is where I belong. God called, I answered. Living out the consequences of saying “yes” to that call isn’t always easy, but it feels right.
Karen Rose, OSB