A Monastic Year in Retrospect: 2014

Winter at HTM

Today has dawned grey and silvery, bright with frost and the sharp tang of woodsmoke. While the rest of the world busies itself with New Year resolutions and a more or less dreary catalogue of what went wrong in 2014, here in the monastery we are thinking about the good zeal we ought to have (RB 72) and what we can do to make sure that 2014 ends on a positive note, with wrongs, insofar as in us lies, righted, forgiveness given and received, and hope and trust restored. You might think that was easy for us, but we live in the same world as you do, and have just as many quirks of character. Indeed, I sometimes think that the reason for Benedict’s insistence on our bearing charitably with one another is because monks and nuns are more quirky than most and make bigger demands on one another.

To put things right with another, we must first admit that something has gone wrong. That can be difficult, especially if we secretly think the other person responsible. Unfortunately, thinking like that tends to lead to another rehearsal of the original grievance; and we all know where that ends. I think we have to ask ourselves what we most desire: victory or harmony. That doesn’t mean we do violence to our sense of right and wrong or pretend to a fault we genuinely believe we haven’t committed, but it does mean humbly acknowledging that somewhere along the line, we haven’t been all we might have been. Aquinas wrote of that which, though not sin, had something of  the nature of sin about it; and we all know how easy it is to perform what used to be called an act of charity in such an uncharitable way that it is quite the opposite. The end of the year is a good time to reflect on these things and see what we can do about them.

Here in the monastery today and tomorrow will be days of mutual apology and reconciliation, of giving thanks, of thinking about the events of 2014 and our way of living through them, all with the firm purpose of trying to do better in 2015. 2014 was not an easy year for us, but it has been a year of blessing. Learning to give thanks in all circumstances doesn’t come naturally to most of us, any more than forgiveness does. Maybe that is why St Benedict ends his chapter on good zeal with a simple but heartfelt prayer: May they prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life. Amen.

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14 thoughts on “A Monastic Year in Retrospect: 2014”

  1. Thank you for some insight into monastic life which you rightly point out while apart from family life, has the same human foibles and quirks that family life can hold.

    Sometimes living together with another can feel confining, in the sense that you’re freedom of action has to be shared and considered in the light of your relationship. Everything that we do either together or apart, has consequences or implications to the partner.

    We’ve been married for over 25 years and are living contentedly together with a few cats and God to accompany us. We have many friends and wider family, but when we’re home together, the door is closed and it’s each other that counts. I’m not saying that it’s heaven on earth, but living considerately and forgivingly together is actually a sort of preparation for life and relationships with others outside the home. In the parish and wider community, relationships with others need maintaining and repairing or just enhanced in as many ways and through opportunities, which God seems to present to us.

    I’ve been amazed and delighted by those that have made this past year, one of the happiest and most settled that I’ve felt in years. Both home, and work in the parish, ministry opportunities and being given the privilege of sharing with others through prayer, preaching and just being is wonderful. Study on my lay ministry course is developing and forming me in so many ways, that I’ve noted greater depth to my faith and belief that I could have hoped for, as well as learning that I will never stop learning about God, his Kingdom and the people that he has put into it.

    For me, if there is to be a definition of happiness it is to be both comfortable with God and with the people around me. To see God’s work day to day in so many lives and to be grateful to him for the blessings that have cascaded into my own life.

    And than we have sites such as yours here, where we are able to come and to share in your wisdom in safety and the knowledge that we share that common bond – love of God and love of our fellow mankind that Jesus alludes to in his statement of the two greatest commandments – everything else is connected through love.

  2. Have recently discovered your blog. It is a place of calm in a crazy world. I deeply appreciate this particular post as I have found myself doing a similar examen at the end of this year. Your writing is both beautiful and clear. Thank you for your prayers as you will be in mine. God bless!

  3. To me, 2014 has been a year I simply don’t want to remember. Nothing but huge and very many disappointments and terrible sadness. There may have been some blessings also coming my way, but I have not been able to see them.
    The death of two family members, illness, unemployment, serious financial problems and the prospect of very soon being without a place to live, are all things that contributed to make 2014 to one of the worst years I can remember.

    I hope and pray that 2015 will show itself to be very different, and I sincerely hope there is a merciful God somewhere, who will start listening to my prayer.

    My best wishes for a good health and a very Happy New Year.

  4. Thank you, as ever, for your wisdom and understanding of the frailty of our human desire to live as God would have us do. With Paul, I frequently feel that I fail to do the good that I wish to do, but the wrong I don’t wish to do – THAT I do! Your tweets and blogs have become an immense blessing to me – teachings and reminders I need in my daily life – a big THANK YOU! – I continue to pray for you, always very aware of your living with sarcoma and all that means, but also so grateful for the wonderful faith and courage you share with us, your on-line companions on the road. God bless you!

  5. Thank you for all your sharing of your journey through this year. Your blog brings me many opportunities for reflection. I thank God that you exist Sister.
    Wishing you a very blessed 2015
    Diane x

  6. A beautiful reflection Sr.C. Oh that the world would take to heart this message of forgiveness and reconciliation ! I echo Pam’s thoughts as you continue your daily walk with sarcoma. Steve Saint (maybe not as well known as St Benedict ,but one of today’s missionaries) said”God doesn’t waste hurts” ,and I sense that your depth of spirituality has been enhanced by your path of pain.

  7. Thank you Sr. Catherine, your writing is always well worth reading and more than that, reflecting upon. 2014 has been a traumatic year in our household – my wife almost died at the beginning of the year, but thanks to brilliant clinical care, much prayer and especially God’s grace has made a wonderful recovery and is now able to walk again and each day brings more of her former sparkle to our lives. My mother died in August and a cousin 18 years my junior two weeks later. It has often been tempting to wish the year gone but then I look around, see Peshawar, Syria, Nigeria and of course the UK where poverty and sadness are too prevalent and realise that no matter how hard things seem I & we are so blessed in our lives by God in our family & friends, our faith and our home.

    I firmly believe that it is a good thing we don’t know what the New Year holds, but I much value your daily intercession and assure you that you will remain in mine as you continue your struggle with your sarcoma.

    Bro Duncan often brings a smile to our breakfast.

  8. Thank you for this timely comment, and for your blogs in general, which brings great spiritual sustenance and prods to my conscience.
    God bless you, Quietnun and Brother Duncan now, in 2015 and always.

  9. Thank you for your generous and encouraging comments. Those of you who are finding things tough, please know that we keep you in our prayers in a special way. May God bless you all in 2015.

  10. From time to time, here at the abbey at St Benoit du Lac in Quebec, Canada, the organist will become transparent in his interpretation of Bach or another composer, at the conclusion of Mass. It is only the music, that fills everything. The organist is the perfect instrument.
    And so it is today, in your inspiring words of hope and wisdom and encouragement. Just as the organist becomes a transparent conduit of Bachs mastery, so do you, with your blog, SHINE with Gods love.
    Thank you, Sister!

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