Okay. The nuns in Indiana....
A little over a year ago, I began an amazing journey with 19 other women pastors and the nuns at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana. The program was dreamed up by one of the sisters at Our Lady of Grace (OLG), Sr. Mary Luke Jones. With help from a couple of Protestant women pastors she knew, Sr. Luke proposed a program in response to a call for proposals from the Lilly Foundation for its "Sustaining Pastoral Excellence" program. Sr. Luke imagined a 3+ year process called Women Touched by Grace (WTBG) where women pastors would come to the monastery for study, prayer, rest, and fellowship.
Lilly liked the proposal and gave WTBG its first grant of $500,000. The first WTBG group met twice a year for ten-day sessions at the monastery and then took a trip to Rome (Italy, not Georgia...not that Rome, Georgia would be a bad place to visit...).
A friend of mine was a part of that first group. Her experience was so profound, so life-changing that she encouraged me to apply when they learned that WTBG would receive a sustaining grant for a second WTBG group.
After Marcia's, oh, I don't know, 7th? email about WTBG, I finally decided to apply. I didn't realize how badly I wanted to participate in the program until the announcement letter came in August of 2007. My husband brought the letter in from the mailbox and dropped in on the kitchen table in front of me with a flourish and a smile. When I saw the envelope, I froze. What if I didn't get in? What if I did?
After about 15 minutes of staring at the envelope, I finally mustered the courage to open it. "We are pleased to inform you..." (or something equally salutary...) I was in. And I was stunned, speechless. My husband was ecstatic for me. I absolutely did not know what to do or how to feel. When I asked Allen why he was so happy about my getting in to WTBG, he said: "Because those people are going to love you for the rest of your life."
A little over a year--and three retreats--into the WTBG process, I am beginning to know that Allen was exactly right. Those 19 women, all those nuns, their presence in my life, their love of me is changing me.
The other thing that is changing me, is my introduction to Benedictine spirituality. The sisters at OLG belong to the Order of St. Benedict. That means they follow the Rule of St. Benedict that was composed over 1500 years ago. He might have lived 1500 years ago, but Benedict had a good handle on how to live the life of faith, on how to live faith in real life. As one who's never been great at meditating or having a daily "quiet time," a sustainable spirituality for every day life has been nigh on impossible for me. When I began reading Benedict and about Benedict, and especially when I began getting to know this great group of Benedictine nuns, things suddenly began clicking for me. Suddenly, knowing how to live my faith, knowing how to encounter God in the everyday world--my everyday world--got, maybe not easier, but a whole lot clearer.
So the "spirituality for real life" that I talked about last week, the spirituality that is sustaining me, the spirituality that makes so much sense and is changing my life, the spirituality that has me so excited that I can't wait to share it with more people, is Benedictine spirituality.
I'm leaving for a couple of weeks of vacation, but will be back (I think around June 19th) ready to share a little of what I'm learning.
Peace for your journey,