My Name is Benedict

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My name is Benedict, F.O.S.B.  I was received into All Saints Priory in winter 2009.  As you might have guessed, I was named after the Father of the Western Monasticism, St. Benedict of Nurcia.  I wear a black habit, and according to the wise injunction of our Holy Father Benedict—I mean St Benedict of Nurcia—I wear a habit made of fur because it is most suitable for the local conditions.  I’m referring to the Holy Rule Chapter 55, if you have any doubt about what I say.

People also associate me with Pope Emeritus, His Holiness Benedict XVI, and there are many commonalities between us.  The list is long, so I will not go into it.  Suffice it to say we are both wise and humble.DSCN1049

I live under the Rule of St. Benedict as you can easily imagine.  I am especially drawn to Chapter 7, which is on humility.  I mediate day and night on the ninth step of humility, which is about controlling our tongue.  This is where I excel, and my brother miserably fails.  More about him later.

I spend much time in Lectio.  I deeply savor such scriptural lines as “Jesus said to his disciples, Come and have breakfast.”(John 21:12)

I am rather quiet and introvert by nature, so this life suits me fine.  But that brother of mine!  He is a DominicanDSCN0913 and in black and white, as he wears his cappa (black mantle) all the time.  He loves to preach.  Let me make clear:  there are two Dominicans around here and the one I’m talking about is the shorter one.  He is about a foot and half in height, with tail and all; the other is six-feet-four.
This brother of mine, who bears the venerable name of the founder of the Order of Preachers, is usually called Nicky as he can’t live up to his name.  He came in summer a few of years ago.  Let me tell you it wasn’t my idea to receive him into our household.  In fact, I didn’t want to be around him at all first.  You see, I’m introvert and he is super-extrovert.  I’m retiring and contemplative, and he is outgoing and loves to talk.  It took me some getting used to, to say the least.

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But one day he fell from a banister and hit his nose very hard.  I found him in a daze and with a bloody nose.  Obviously he was hurt.  I was so worried.  That moment I realized I had come to love him.  You know love is a gift from God.  And my little brother too is His gift because he loves me.  With all his shortcomings, he is still my brother.

Since then we live in harmony.  You might call it one mind and one heart.  St Augustine quotes this from the Acts 4:32 as the ideal of his monastic community.  Read the Rule of St Augustine Chapter 1. Ben & Nick love

So, let us practice charity, bond of peace.  A wise old cat speaks.IMG_0644 A

What Did You Do on Your Rest Time?

“What did you do on your rest time?”  This is a familiar question each of us hears when we return home after having been away visiting family or friends for a period of up to two weeks at a time.   Everyone looks forward to having a rest time.  Think of it as “down time” or time when one can step outside the routine of the Religious Life and enjoy being “off schedule.”  A time to read, study, pray and enjoy a different environment for the purpose of refreshing one’s mind, body, and soul.  Rest times are good for every Sister, as well as, for the Community itself.

Rest times are spent in ways that often reflect the personality and interests of the Sister. Take Sr. Barbara Ann; she and her brother Charles love hiking, exploring new terrain and trying out new things. Sister Babra Ann So Sr. Barbara Ann enjoyed spending her time in Seattle, Washington with Charles this year and returned home in July full of interesting stories about the places they visited and activities they had done.

Sr. Margaret, on the other hand, will often take a portion of her rest time here at home so she can garden!  You would never catch me doing that.  But she is also known to spend some of her time away in retreat at another Community besides visiting with friends in the Washington DC area.  She just recently returned home this month early from visiting a friend in order to  “play in the dirt”, which then makes her hungry.IMG_0747 A Closeup Sr. Marg at lunch

Then there is Sr. Christina.  She loves to travel and has traveled extensively over her lifetime.  She enjoys being on the go, meeting new people and seeing new places.IMG_9325  A rest time wouldn’t be a rest time for her if she wasn’t going away somewhere to spend time with either family in Canada or friends here in the US.  At present, she is enjoying a visit with our Associate Libby Hargrave and her husband John and spoiled kitty cat, Teddy in Pensacola, Florida.IMG_0405 A

So what about the rest of us?  Well,  we are just as varied in what we prefer to do as the three Sisters just mentioned above.  You’ll just have to tune in to a later blog to find out how we answer the question, “What did you do on your rest time?”

BOOKS ROOM

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Ordinarily called a “Library” at this time ours is more like the title of this blog:  a room full of books.  And that is what happens when you decided to re-do a fairly large library!  While not usually too challenging, it is TIME consuming!

It can be DANGEROUS work too….Some book reaches out and grabs you….and first thing you know…..hum…..It becomes a reading room!  Well, have library skills and want to help?

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First Timers and The Shrine

Friday afternoons and evenings usually find us welcoming guests, both new and old, to our Convent guest wing.  Individual weekend retreats are popular and with our limited space, the rooms fill up faster than you can whistle Dixie.

This weekend we have had a couple of first timers.  First timers are fun to be around as they see everything with fresh eyes.  Sometimes they remind me of our late cocker spaniel, GiGi, who acted as though she had never seen a tree or a blade of grass every time you took her for a walk.  She reveled in all the sights and smells.  First timers are like that, they revel in the Liturgy of the Hours, they walk starry eyed around the property, they want to participate in anything and everything, and they gradually sink into the silence as they let go to spend some time apart in the company of the Lord.  In their enthusiasm, they remind us of what we can so often take for granted.

Speaking of first timers, we hosted a youth group from Our Lady of Perpetual Help from Ellicott City, Maryland for two days last week.  This group of high school and college young people was eager and enthusiastic to help us reclaim our Shrine garden once again.  The Shrine suffers terribly from the deer and squirrel population and was renewed by a wonderful Eagle Scout Zachery Lingo in 2012, but succumbed to the critters.  So another idea began to take shape in our minds.  What about fashioning a rock garden in that area?  After considering our options, we decided to give it a try.

Our first time volunteer gardeners began the project by cleaning out the beds, preparing for stone, and finally laying the stone. As you can see in the photos, both days were sunny and hot, but that didn’t seem to deter them one little bit.  They managed to layer the stones and when they were finished, they worked on our Garden of Peace!

IMG_0730 Spreading rocks at ShrineIMG_0731 Shrine Project OLPH

Admittedly, there is more work to be done, but thanks to our youthful neighbors we are off to a great start.  Now we are looking to replace our St. Francis and our St. Therese of Lisieux statues for ones that will be more decorative and bring some color to the garden. So we are adding two small outdoor statues to our wish list.

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Pray that our desire to revive the Shrine and keep it as a place of beauty and peace will be blessed by our Holy Mother Mary for all to enjoy.  It is and always has been a place of peace for us, our guests and many visitors who walk through the property every day.

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Feast of St. Dominic

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Dominic, not because our resident chaplain, Fr. Hugh Vincent Dyer, is a Dominican of the Province of St. Joseph,  though that might be reason enough, but because this Feast has a significant place in our Anglican heritage.

It was on this Feast Day in London England, 1856,  that Harriet Brownlow Byron was installed as Mother for life of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor in the growing Sisterhood’s tiny chapel.   She and her Sisters, as Sr. Mary Joan has so beautifully said, chose to live entirely for Christ in His Eucharistic presence and with His poor, while maintaining the disciplines of a deeply spiritual community life.

Mother Harriet B Byron

Mother Harriet Brownlow Byron

The Sisterhood made one of their first foreign foundations in Baltimore, Maryland, USA where the Community was expected to serve Christ and His Body through wholehearted faith and in the interior life of prayer.  The Community did just that for over 137 years until the Holy Spirit chose to lead them on a journey that would eventually culminate on September 3, 2009, the Feast of St. Gregory the Great,  with a new profession of faith as members of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.

With the will of God as shown by the Holy Spirit as our compass, we strive to re-found our Community in new ways, by building on our Anglican heritage and by sinking  new roots in the rich soil of the See of St. Peter.  To this end, we pray for a few good women who, led by the Holy Spirit, would accept the challenges re-founding brings.

HC We are all enclosed in Him

A Day of Fiat Camp

Two of our Sisters had the pleasure of speaking at the 2015 FIAT Days discernment camp at the beautiful Mount St Mary’s Seminary last Friday.  They were only able to spend one day with these lovely, lively girls from both the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Washington.

The girls give up three days from their summer to detach from cell phones,texting, tweeting and all the other things young people regularly do – in order to spend time with Jesus and some of His servants.  On the Mount they make new friends, live in a real time world filled with prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, the Rosary, and time for outdoors play.  They also listened to speakers addressing themes such as Mary’s Yes and Ours, Marriage as a Vocation, Women as World Changers and of course our Holy Father’s theme of Setting the World on Fire.

The only regret our two Sisters heard from the girls was that the Fiat Camp was too SHORT this year!  Some expressed to our All Saints Sisters a desire for an experience of Silent Retreat – for teens.  Hum.  We took  note!

 A Picture of the Front of the Program Booklet

Meet Our Observer

IMG_0713 AWe are pleased to introduce Virginia Patton, our new Observer, who is exploring the Religious Life as it is lived here at All Saints Priory.  Virginia will be with us for one month, living, worshiping, and working alongside the Community under the guidance of Sister Christina, who has many years experience in Formation work.

When asked if she would write a little piece about herself for Thoughts from the Hilltop she eagerly responded with the following comments.

My Observatory Experience at All Saints Convent

I started visiting All Saints in June of 2012.  Since then I’ve come 2 – 3 times each year to retreat and meet with our Lord.  I have grown to love this Convent and the community here.  It has deeply enriched my relationship with God.  Prior to my first visit to All Saints, I’ve wondered if God could be calling me to the religious life. I’m still trying to discern his call.

Two months ago I was worshiping at mass at the parish in my neighborhood, and I suddenly got the idea to come to All Saints for a long month visit.  I considered visiting for an extended stay for awhile but hadn’t gained the courage to step forward.  I prayed and sought the Lord about the idea, and the next day I contacted Sister Christina and Mother Emily Ann asking if I could come.

Sister Christina responded right away saying YES! 

I was both excited and terrified but decided to take the leap and visit All Saints for a more extended stay.

Since then, I resigned from my job where I’d been working as a fundraiser and event planner for 2.5 years, sublet the room I rent in the townhouse where I reside, and put the rest of my life “on hold” so I can commune with the Lord in a more meaningful, focused way to ask for his guidance and direction for the next steps in my life.  I’m lifting everything up to heaven, trusting he will reveal his plans.

My visit has been absolutely delightful.  I’m so thankful for All Saints.  It is indeed holy ground and I’m learning to listen to God’s voice more attentively since arriving.  The time I spend in prayer, silence, contemplation, and in community with the sisters is deeply enriching my life. 

I will forever look back on this season and give praise and glory to God for this month observatory experience at All Saints.  I’m so thankful he’s led me here!

Virginia Patton 

Please pray for Virginia as she continues to discern her call from God.  She is a real joy, enters into the life fully, loves the Lord, and has brought new energy into our Community.