Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Installation Day

Sunday the monastery where I work installed a new prioress. I was at my college reunion in Grinnell, Iowa, from Thurs-Sat noon, and drove back to be on duty for the event. When someone asked why I had to go back, I said, "The monastery where I work is having the installation of a new prioress on Sunday." She looked very confused. "What's a prioress?"
Before I could answer, someone said, "It's the piece between the queen and the knight."
"That's right," I said. "She can only move diagonally."

The prioress is the spiritual leader of a Benedictine monastery. The Rite of Installation, celebrated with the Sisters of the monastery, the new prioress's family and me, as the communications director, feeling very lucky to be there, makes clear that the prioress is a representative of Christ for the community.

Much is made of treating everyone as Christ in St. Benedict's Rule and the Benedictine way of life. The motto is expressed in a number of ways: "Greet/Welcome all as Christ," "Love all as Christ," and "Treat all as Christ." This last informs the Benedictine health care system, injecting a dose of humility into what can sometimes be a dehumanizing institution. It is probably the most wonderful thing about the monastery: The love the Sisters have for each other. This love is translated as caring and any manner of expression but also as charity for one another. I always think this is the basis for "seeing Christ" in the other and, more importantly, seeing the other as Christ sees us.

So I think that the prioress has a lucky assignment. She gets to see as Christ, to be Christ to the Sisters. That does not mean she isn't called to challenge them or direct and redirect. But I do believe that real joy is loving others, and she is called to love.

I wrote the blog entry today for the Sisters' blog about the installation. For more about what happens during a Rite of Installation, click here.


35th 'n Shields said...

Susan -
I just wanted to leave a message to say how much I enjoyed reading your blog. I just stumbled across it in typical random "net surfing" fashion. I started reading, thinking I would read just the first entry. Two hours later, I feel like I know you.

I'm a "Cradle Catholic" with the eduction to go with it (Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Irish Christian Brothers, and the Jesuits). I have pretty much given up on the church and its' current Pope, but I feel good to know that there are still people such as you who keep "fighting the good fight".

I hope you get to write your book about nuns in the 21st century. Based on what I've read here you're off to a good a start.

Susan Sink said...

Thanks so much for your comment! It is a challenging time to "keep the faith," and I'm lucky to live in such a vibrant Catholic community and be able to be a witness to it in my writing, work and blog. Keep your eyes open-- there are a lot of Catholics doing interesting things in Chicago and finding ways to be Catholic in the 21st century. There's even a couple groups of Benedictines-- women in the city and a more contemplative monastery of men near Comiskey Park (whatever it's called now!).