The Week From... by Sr. Dorothy
Have you ever had a day - week - month or maybe even year when things might have been "going right" but you simply couldn't see it, or maybe interpret it that way? A time of chaos, full of unexpected events, and perhaps you felt at cross-purposes with everything around you?
I suspect chaos happens to everyone, to every family. even to groups...sometimes to whole countries. Hard to believe, but it happens in monasteries too. St. Benedict tried to arrange things in his Rule so that there might be order in the monastery. In spite of his intent and ours, too, life occasionally gets away from us--and chaos reigns. You may not be able to see it from the outside, because sometimes chaos is more internal than outside our skins; nevertheless, it's just as real and can be just as upsetting.
When things don't happen as we expect them to, we have to make adjustments. Adjustments in our personal work schedule, in whether we get to have a vacation we have planned, in how much sleep we might have to make do with. Because we lead an ordered life in the monastery, these adjustments can be particularly hard for some. We encourage each other to be ready for change, for the unexpected guest, for the rare occasion when a meal is not ready on time.
And that's a good thing--encouraging each other, as Benedict teaches us, to be ready several times a day to drop whatever you are doing and go to chapel to pray the Psalms. To encourage each other to wake up in the morning on time, when "the sleepy like to make excuses," as the Rule tells us.
So what's the answer to dealing with the unexpected? I don't think aiming for a way that involves no chaos is particularly realistic, but there must be something that can help us. Oblate Julie Ferraro of the Monastery of the Ascension, Jerome, Idaho, says flexibility is the best help. I believe St. Benedict tries to teach us that in the Rule, if only we are paying attention. Flexibility means we don't spend time complaining how the unexpected is stealing our lives. The fact is, whatever happens is our life, and being flexible means we get to live the whole thing, not just our favorite parts. Accepting that is the beginning of making peace with the unexpected.
Oblate Julie Ferraro, who is also a journalist, wrote an interesting article on flexibility among Benedictines in the Global Sisters' Report which you may enjoy reading. She could have been writing some of those stories about St. Placid Priory and any number of other monasteries. Emergencies happen all over!