Monday, February 8, 2010

February 9 – Exquisite Care – The Welfare of the Sisters

The young postulant enters the Abbey, comes under the care of the Postulant Mistress for a year or more, and then the Novice Mistress watches over her well-being and progress for two more years.

She takes her place, after her Final Vows, among the professed nuns, and she is never without spiritual guidance. The years go by, and perhaps she becomes Novice Mistress herself. She follows in the footsteps of those who have gone before her.

Then one day, the beloved Mother Abbess departs the monastery on her way to heaven. An election is held, and to her utter surprise and probably dismay, the former postulant is now responsible unto death for all the bright-eyed arrivals in the Abbey, as well as all the novices in the midst of their training, and the wizened old nuns who are old enough to be her grandmother.

All the professed community votes for the new Abbess, and the vote is intricate and designed to reach a solid unanimity. Young though she may be in the sight of those who have been around for many decades, the oldest member of the community will soon address her as Reverend Mother, or Mother Abbess . . . and then, as the new wears off, as “Mother.”

As much as she has come to love her Sisters, young and old, her care was for her own “conversatio” and the joys and rigors of the Divine Office. In fact, other than to pray for her Sisters, she knew better than to let herself grow too curious about the progress of the others. That … was not her concern.

Now, the Abbey will lose no time in seating her upon the Abbatial chair, and she will be given charge over the lives and souls of every woman in the house, IN ORDER THAT they may all carry out their goal of maintaining worship in choir and in their souls.

The wonder is that this process has played out in thousands of convents and monasteries over thousands of years.

What is the secret of the seamless transition?

The nuns put their trust in God to keep them in their vocations. Were an Abbess ever to be unfit for the responsibility and the worship was curtailed, if the Office was forsaken, if the Sisters could not carry out their Opus Dei, then the house would seek to right the course. They know it, the Abbess knows it. There is no other course or purpose.

Like the postulant who one day takes her seat in the Abbatial chair, to guide and care for the community, in Cor Unum we are chosen to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10.)

"The Heart of Worship"
photo by Kerry

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