My home monastery in America is Benedictine and ecumenical in tradition, a combination of various Protestant denominations and Catholics. The Begijnhof also has the same international and ecumenical apostolate. Catholics and Protestants from England, Germany, Nederlands, Italy, Switzerland and France regularly visit the guesthouse to share in the quiet, peace and contemplative life of the Beguinage. The sisters come historically from many countries with different languages, French, English and of course Nederlands are regularly heard during recreation time.
This morning’s Sunday Mass was a perfect example. An English ecumenical group comes every year to spend a few days; there are Catholic and Anglican priests, parishioners and members and even third order laics, Carmelite. Our Beguinage priest opened Mass with a welcome to the group. The four priests participated at Mass and consecration; one English priest read in Nederlands. Personally, I was touched by the obvious generosity between the priests reminding me of the Rubelov icon of the trinity with the the three persons of the Trinity bowing to one another. The professional singer who supports us sisters on Sunday sang in English before the dismissal ‘All creatures great and small, The Lord God made them all’. It was stunning and a generous blessing for us; I saw many smiles as the music and language blessed the English faces across the choir from me.
Compline is another unifying experience; every night Compline is sung in Latin, the universal language of the church and both we sisters and the English group sing together. Whatever your mother tongue we can all sing Gregorian chant together. The short reading is normally read in Nederlands for which I have practiced and struggled many months. I have received notes on my pronunciation each night until finally I receive my notes only once or twice a week. These three days I was asked to read the short reading in English to bless the group staying with us. I nearly wept as I read in my mother tongue at the lectern where I had struggled so hard to read intelligibly in my new language. I hope the group was blessed as much as I was. My sister and guide into the complexities of the Nederlands language asked that I read slowly in English as she and some of the other sisters can understand English if read slowly enough. I complied. After Compline, a traditional song to Mary is sung; we chose the Salve Regina as we can all sing that in Latin then the English group would bless us with an English hymn to Mary. A blessed peace and unity descends. I wonder if it will be like this in heaven?