"For everything there is a season" writes the sage, and "a time for every matter under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). It is a time for prayer for fifteen of us this week as we sojourn at Conception Abbey for an immersion course in Benedictine Spirituality. Every other January I bring students and life-long learners to the Abbey so that we might learn to listen better for the voice of God as we pray. This year is especially meaningful as we have seven students from the Milwaukee Centre of Central; also a student from our Murfreesboro site is here, in addition to students from the Shawnee campus. We are strengthening our bonds as brothers and sisters in Christ and as fellow seminarians as we share meals, class sessions and, above all, the liturgy of the hours (Opus Dei ), which comprises the regular times of communal prayer.
We have come eager to embrace a different rhythm, and already students have adjusted to 6:00 AM Vigils and an earlier bedtime, with little "murmuring"--a destructive habit adamantly forbidden in the Rule of St. Benedict. (No one has been caught so far napping in the church--only in class when the professor drones on a little long...). Of this liturgical season the monks like to say: "we are just getting a good start on Christmas up here." The church is beautifully decorated with lighted trees, a treasured nativity scene, poinsettias, banners of red and gold, vigil lights that announce Epiphany--all building up the celebration of the baptism of Jesus this coming Sunday. The texts recount the visitation of the Magi and its revelation that the Christ is a gift for the whole world, and the hymns celebrate the true Light coming into the world.
The beginning of a new year is an apt time to renew the bedrock practice of our faith as Christians, which is prayer. Perhaps the best definition of prayer is offered by Roberta Bondi: "prayer is shared life with God." The wisdom of Benedictine spirituality is that the work of God, to which "nothing should be preferred," is making prayer the very center of life. Further wisdom from this tradition notes that prayer in community sustains individual practice.
While we are at the Abbey, we are praying for Central, for the communities from which we have come, and for one another. By acknowledging the presence of Christ in all persons, we are led to pray more lovingly for each. We trust that our experiences this week will remind us that it is always a season for prayer.
Molly T. Marshall
To learn more about the reach of Central in Milwaukee, Murfreesboro, Myanmar, the urban core of Kansas City, and in Shawnee, visit our website www.cbts.edu