Monks and nuns take vows when they become religious. Often it is the traditional three, poverty, chastity and obedience, and in the Benedictine tradition, stability ( staying in one monastery ) is added. Whatever the combination of vows, there is a number of years between the first profession, and the solemn profession for life. There can be renewal of these vows or reavowal every year or every five years; each order has a separate structure. The Benedictine sisters renew their vows at Pentecost.

First there is a week long retreat between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost. I was invited to be on the retreat with them this year; a special blessing for me for two reasons. One it was a gift to be with them, and also to be taught by the father who led the retreat a very gifted and holy man who encouraged us and moved us on to encounter the mercy and love of God. The second reason is that it was all in Dutch! WOW it really helped me practice! I was armed with my dictionary for words I actually could spell and search out on hearing. How hard though is it to understand “you must look at the log in your own eye before attempting to help your brother with the splinter in his own eye.” That is fairly clear in any language! It is the perfect time of year for retreat and rebirth with spring growth all around, fresh leaves on all the trees and various flowers like lilacs on the altar and swans and ducks nesting awaiting their new life arrivals. The retreat concludes with Mass in which the sisters in unison restate their vows. I found it moving and sniffled into my handkerchief. I sat because I renew my vows at my home convent in January, again a good time with the new year beginning.

A little blessing was waiting just for me. The scripture in the Mass was John 12:24 “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies, it remains alone, if it dies it bears much fruit.” This verse is the cornerstone of my home community and I have know the verse in my own life for over 40 years. Dare I hope for new birth, the coming of the Holy Ghost in all of us sisters and in my own heart. Yes for sure!



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