Sister Benedict’s Story: part 2
So I knew nothing about religious life, except that I felt that God was calling me to consecrate my whole life to him.
I was drawn to the Benedictines because of Cardinal Basil Hume, and his book, Searching for God. This book is also still available.
(By the way, did you google Sun Slower Sun Faster, the novel I mentioned last time? You will soon realise that books have had a great influence on me!)
Cardinal Hume attracted me to Benedictine monastic life because when interviewed on the radio he talked about prayer, which was quite rare in those days. I also heard him preach at Westminster Cathedral, and he didn’t pretend to know all the answers, which was honest and helpful.
I have often returned to that book of his, and did so again only last year to copy out a bit about discernment:
To novices about to take first vows:
“When you were postulants and we were discussing whether or not you should enter the monastery, I told you there were three questions you should put to yourself: Do I want to live with these persons? Do I want to do what they do? Do I see myself becoming the sort of person they are? These are three questions you might well put to yourselves again. Do you want to be one of us? Do you want to do what we do? Do you see yourself becoming the sort of persons we are?”
From reading Cardinal Hume’s book, I wanted to read the Rule of St Benedict, to which he referred so frequently, and which he obviously took to be a good guide. I found a paperback of the Rule in Mowbray’s bookshop, near where I worked. It was a small American edition with a helpful introduction.
“Listen, my son, to the words of the Master”. These words seemed to be addressed directly to me. “Who seeks for life? … if you answer: I do!” For years this beginning of the Rule, when read out in the Refectory, always moved me profoundly.
I got addresses by writing to the Vocations Sisters [no longer exist?] and wrote to the four houses. The Sisters also recommended a novel, In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden, this too is still available. I am not sure it was helpful, but it probably influenced me for a long time.
So I set out in exceptionally cold weather, snowy even, leaving my car behind, also the cigarettes.
I just looked at one place from outside, as they said they were probably making a big change, and I had seen something in the press about it.
I went for a really nerve wracking interview with the superior of a second place, nerve wracking because she never took her eyes off me and I felt I had to stare back and answer all her searching questions truthfully. I realised I could not manage that for the rest of my life!
And then I went to stay at two other Benedictine houses a weekend each.
I foolishly thought I could change my whole future on the basis of a weekend’s acquaintance.
End of part 2!
Thanks for your encouraging comments on part 1