Today it is the Feast of St Benedict of Nursia our patron and patron of Europe. St Benedict actually has two feast days – the 21st March and today, because March is the pre-Vatican 11 date and today the post- Vatican 11 revised date although both have been used for some years. The March date falls in Lent so there is no festive tea. We actually keep the 21st March as our main celebration, so it is a Solemnity with two Vespers, today is a Feast, with one.
We are having tea with scones and jam at recreation and we are asking for St Benedict’s prayers, we also have Benediction in the evening.
Over the last few weeks our garden has continued to flourish and although I was initially a bit down at the pigeons eating all the currants ( that’s a novice gardener for you! ) I am laughing about it now. The first marrows are appearing and its amazing – at least for me as I grew them from seed so I am experiencing all the wonder of nature. I am working against the slugs though, a gardening magazine says they hate coffee grounds so I have been sprinkling them around the marrows and squash and saying a prayer. The aphids have been attacking some of the beans so I am making more nettle juice to stop it – it does work very well, but I keep forgetting to make it – probably has something to do with the fact that they are unpleasant to harvest and the juice smells awful – a guess that’s a small price to pay for getting some veggies though.
Sr Davina has been providing us with salad veg, strawberries and today for our Feast we had the first of the potatoes. In the court the birds have flown. Over two weeks we watched the newly hatched blackbirds grow steadily as they were very well fed by attentive parents. Sisters could often be found in the refectory looking out of the windows or in the cloister gazing into the nest and Chelsea was kept out of the court. I have never been a bird watcher but the experience of seeing this family has converted me! The most wonderful sight was 3 little heads popping up out of the nest, mouths gaping wide and calling for mom who arrived quickly and seemed to push her mouth down their throats to feed them asap. One was much bigger than the others and got out first, then I saw two sitting on a branch gazing through the window at me, no fear just interest, I guess they wanted a look into our home as we were theirs, I wondered who was watching who. All of the chicks now have homes in the trees nearby but the smallest keeps coming back to the nest and for a while mom came and fed him occasionally but now he too is fending for himself.
In the monastery life just potters on really. I am now refectorian as well as the other jobs and I am enjoying it. It doesn’t take long but it makes a difference, I also now have a second habit which – and I know this sounds silly – feels like a treasure. I have noticed that since coming here my values are changing – I get real pleasure out of being given a new habit, it feels like an affirmation of my place here especially when I am so nervous about my forthcoming Chapter. Every 6 months we have to formally ask to continue with our novitiate. I spoke to Mother Abbess, she will call a council, they discuss me and vote, then I ask formally at Chapter in front of the whole community, I am told the result and Mother Abbess gives a talk. At Chapter I will kneel in the centre as I did on my Clothing day, and it is be powerfully reminiscent of it.
Yes, I enjoy small things much more now, a small kindness from a sister, a beautiful reading, watching the birds, seeing beauty in wildflowers ( or weeds), somehow more things touch me, perhaps because they speak of God in the midst of us, they speak to me of our incarnate God who walked amongst us – Christ, who still does. Perhaps this is contemplation – looking beyond creation to the creator has always left me filled with awe..
I wish all joy and peace on this feast day, St Benedict – pray for us. Sr Marie Therese.