Imagine spending your entire life in prayer, cloistered in a small community of others, praying for the Church for years…
In fact, this is the vocation of a group of women in Virginia Dale, about five miles from the Colorado/Wyoming border. On Feb. 10, another young woman dedicated her life to this very calling for the rest of her life.
Surrounded by family from across the United States, Sister Maria of Jesus made her Solemn Monastic Profession on the Solemnity of St. Scholastica, the sister of St. Benedict, under whose Rule the sisters live.
“The Abbey of St. Walburga is the place where I have found joy, joy welling up from the deepest part of me,” Sister Maria told the Denver Catholic. “Joy that permeates my entire being, resonating as it is with this community and this life. I have, of course, had struggles through my years of formation — everyone does — but through it all, joy has continued to surge to the surface.”
As Benedictine nuns, Sister Maria and her sisters live St. Benedict’s famous motto, “Ora et labora, prayer and work.” They gather multiple times through the day and night to pray the Divine Office; they serve in various capacities in the Abbey, from the kitchen to the barn, to the retreat center and the larger property. Because they are cloistered, much of the sisters’ lives is spent at the Abbey in prayer, community and service.
“I have had the delight of realizing that in a monastery, love of neighbor is tangible,” Sister Maria continued. “It really is serving whoever happens to have come to live the rest of their lives next to you — the sisters — people you did not choose yourself, but who really are your neighbors. These are children of God every bit as worthy of love and service as the poorest of the poor in India or the people I meet on the street. Those poor people are ones whose faults I do not know, and who are sometimes easier to love because there is some distance between them and me, and their needs are often more tangible.”
In a world that values productivity and success, this quiet, hidden life of loving service to God and his Church is bound to confound in its countercultural witness.
“I believe that as cloistered nuns,” Sister Maria reflected, “we are called in a different way to be leaven for the Church and the world, witnessing to the beauty of Truth and modeling as best we can the effect ‘seeking first the kingdom of God’ has on a Christian Community. We are simply called to love Him. I believe that that in itself has the power to change the world.”
So deeply is Sister Maria convicted by this truth that she has given her life to this mission of love. Using the analogy of hiking, she shared, “This profession is not only my definitive ‘yes’ to the Lord, it’s also a ‘route plan’ to Him. Crafted by a very wise master, the Rule of St. Benedict gives me ‘handrails’ when the way is difficult and the path is unclear, and gives the Gospel as guide; it describes the journey with such clarity and simplicity, that even a beginner like I am can follow it. I also think of the community here as having made a well-beaten path before me. To paraphrase what the Lover says to His bride in the Song of Songs: ‘If you wish to find Me, follow in the tracks of the flock.’ I am only at the beginning of my journey towards God, but in this profession, He gives me every assurance that I shall find Him.”
For others who might be seeking God and his will for their lives, Sister Maria had simple but wise advice: “Spend time with Him in adoration, every day, if possible — this is life-changing! Hear what He has to say for Himself, and what He has to say to you — by reading the Scriptures. Get to know His friends, the saints, by learning about their lives and what they did and thought. Get to know His friends now, by finding good Christian communities.”
For more information about the Abbey, the nuns, and retreat opportunities, visit https://walburga.org/.