Retrospective: Fourteen Years On

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Today is the fourteenth anniversary of our canonical foundation as an autonomous monastery of diocesan right. In other words, our Foundation Day — a day when we give thanks for all the blessings of the past, for our oblates and associates, our online community and friends, and all the benefactors who have helped us in many and various ways in sometimes dark and difficult days. Our survival until now is itself a miracle, given the forces ranged against us, and indeed any monastic community, at times. What the future holds is more problematic.

I see that back in 2016 I wondered whether small autonomous communities of monastic women would survive the changes hinted at in the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere. I think Cor Orans gives us the answer, at least in the short term; but it would be a mistake to assume that Vatican documents, no matter how well-meaning or how large their scope, have the final say. The Rule of St Benedict was not an official Church text when it it was written in the sixth century, any more than the monastic way of life was, in origin, an official Church status. Monks and nuns are, by definition, led by the Holy Spirit to follow Christ in ways that may seem to others contradictory or strange. That is one of the reasons both civil and ecclesiastical authorities have always tried to pin us down, lock us up, even, in safe, controllable categories. But the Holy Spirit is never confined, never wholly predictable. That is the wonderful thing about seeking God in the monastery: he is always doing a new thing, overturning our certainties, drawing us along paths we never expected. What he asks of us is fidelity and perseverance, a readiness to respond to the promptings of grace, a willingness to begin again every day. What he makes of our small offering is his business — and we know he can be trusted.

Today, therefore, we give thanks. We look back on the past and some of the extraordinary things we have been enabled to do despite being few in number and of no importance, and we ask God’s grace for the present and future, that we may continue to serve God and others in ways pleasing to him. Please join us in that prayer, not forgetting the many other small communities of Benedictine nuns for whom we have been asked to pray.

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