American Prosperity Gospel says, “Have faith! Work Hard! God will reward you with treasure. ” Jesus says to Martha, “You are worried over many things…” God says to Moses, “Tell Pharaoh, ‘I AM sends you. ’” During retreat this past week God challenged me to simply BE. I had plans to read certain books. It didn’t happen. I had sewing to do. I even set it out, ready for the scissors. It didn’t happen.
“What do you do in the monastery?” This is a question we hear fairly often. And one answer might be the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words. ” The act of living in community can be a powerful illustration of people from different backgrounds living in peace together.
From May 8 to May 18, three Benedictine Novices, Dorothy Herring, Sonja Weber and I, were at the Novice and Director Institute (NADI) retreat at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama. This retreat was part of our preparation for Initial Monastic Profession. We had a very tight schedule.
For the past few weeks, the focus of my contemplation has been on silence. Silence has its own chapter in the Rule of Benedict, chapter 6. The word silence in the Rule is interpreted to mean “to refrain from speech” or to be silent. Many of us have places around the monastery that may engender in us a contemplative inner quiet. My own cell is this space for me.
I have always been a “maker. ” I have a photo of myself knitting at about age 3. And I loved experimenting with gluing rocks together, or coloring, or drawing, or watching my father make things. My mother wrote in my baby book, “Monika loves to work with little things. . . ” And so it continues to this day. Zentangle is an art form of the miniature.
Trappist monk Thomas Merton said of his hermitage, “It is essential to experience all the times and moods of one good place. " This may not be true for all people at all times, but I have found it one of the best parts of Benedictine community life here at St. Placid Priory. Walking in our woods and around the monastery, watching the seasons change—with all that means for plant and animal life.
I am Paz Vital. My name means peace and my last name means life. I am originally from Mexico City, where I lived most of my life. I moved to the States in 2009. I planned to live with part of my family in California but work took me to Houston, Texas. I was working at the medical center doing basic research.