The things that break us are not the not the core stuff. It’s the ancillary stuff.
An order of Benedictine nuns came to Yankton, South Dakota in the 1880’s and has been a mainstay of the town along the Missouri River ever since. Today they share a campus with Mt. Marty University and the largest regional hospital and healthcare provider. Sister Phyllis just celebrated her 90th birthday. She leans on a rolling walker, but other than that she still looks and speaks like the CEO of a major healthcare system in Omaha that was the first in the country to establish norms for moving patients out of physical rehab units and back home. Sister Jeanne just returned from one of her many trips around the country and around the world.
Sister Phyllis: When we started discharging people back home in Omaha, well, that was unheard of in that era, because the nursing homes wanted them to stay get the Medicare payment. Our monastery has been in a position to be able to do such things like that over the years. That’s a part of our heritage. You try new things and you learn as you go along. It was the right thing to do.
Sister Jeanne: About a week ago I was at a conference in Rome. We had a report from a sister in Ukraine. They have hundreds of people staying in their monastery. These people are so traumatized and they are healed by two things: by the regular schedule of the monastery and by prayer. It didn’t matter if they’re Catholics, didn’t matter even if they’re Christians. It’s healing for them.
Sister Phyllis: St. Benedict lived between 475 and 540. (He wrote his Rule, or set of guiding principles, which include awareness of God in our lives; community living and sharing; respect for all persons; stability by firm commitment of the members to the group; hospitality; moderation and balance; dignity of work to which everyone contributes; wise stewardship of our gifts and resources; and peace.) These values are so important today.
Sister Jeanne: We don’t stand up and preach.
Sister Jeanne:In some ways it was easier to live those values in 1950, or 1960; here’s a lot more competition these days from cell phones, the internet. A practice of silence really does make a difference in who we are, and how we come across to people.
Sister Jeanne: We’re results oriented. At the same time, we’re constantly stopping work to pray. I find myself every once in a while saying okay, Jean, slow down, let God catch up to you.
Sister Jeanne: Pushing yourself endlessly is not good for the soul. I get frustrated and impatient seeing things in the world going in a way that I don’t think are healthy for our culture and our world. I have to work on myself first, to be open to hearing the other, to be open to hearing a stance that is very different than my own.
Sister Phyllis: You have to be able to change yourself in your thinking in regards to the other person and to let that go. If you’re going to magnify it within yourself it’s not ever going to heal. I have to pray and just be silent and thoughtful about it.
Sister Jeanne: During Vatican Two, there were sisters who left the order. It was a change of garb. Then it was changing the Mass from Latin to English. The things that break us are not the not the core stuff. It’s the ancillary stuff.
Sister Jeanne: There’s a principle in moral theology that says that regardless of the person or their actions, everyone is always searching for the good. Nobody consciously and willfully sets out to do evil. We’re all searching for some good. Now, that gets pretty warped along the way, sometimes. That was one thing that helped me understand the current political climate. People are searching for the good, and at some level, they believe that certain politicians can help them find it.