Read about our communal Lenten traditions and practices.
We will post these periodically throughout Lent.
The Rule of St. Benedict “urges the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligence’s of other times.” Lent is an opportunity to take a fresh look at our lives and to identify habits that may need to be introduced, amended or eliminated. Therefore, each sister is to write her own Bona Opera, or good works, that she will strive to undertake during the season of Lent.
Our Bona Operas consider the three practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Discernment and prayer are our first steps in selecting each of the three practices. Experience has helped us to know that if we select our additional measures of spiritual growth with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will more likely persevere in performing them through the season of Lent.
Continued prayer for assistance is also necessary, for the work of spiritual growth is hard and requires grace from God.
Each sister receives a form from the Prioress with an encouraging letter. She writes her good works on this form and places it in a special basket along with the entire community’s Bona Operas. This basket of Bona Operas is placed on the altar as an offering of or lives during the Presentation of the Gifts at the Ash Wednesday liturgy. The Prioress reads and blesses each Bona Opera before returning the form to the sister. These steps are an essential component, as the Rule states that “everything must be done with the Prioress’s/Abbot’s approval.”
The members of our Oblate community also complete their Bona Opera and submit them to our Oblate Director. These are offered and placed on the altar beside those of our Sisters during the Presentation of the Gifts at our Ash Wednesday Mass. Our Oblate Director then reads and responds to each one.
“During this time of Lent each one is to receive a book from the
library and is to read the whole of it straight through. These books
are to be distributed at the beginning of Lent”
(Rule of St. Benedict 48:15-16).
St. Benedict knew and understood the importance of sacred reading. For monastics, sacred reading should deepen and strengthen their spiritual life. Sacred reading enables us to encounter Christ as we read, potentially leading us to conversion and a deeper relationship with God and others. Monastics are committed to sacred reading of Scripture each day, as a form of personal prayer. Another form of sacred reading is the reading of spiritual books, which we engage in throughout the year.
Lent is a wonderful time to be more intentional with our spiritual reading. Each sister in the community chooses a book to read throughout Lent. In discerning what book to read she may pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit or ask someone for a recommendation. Each sister chooses a book that will help her on her grow on her spiritual journey. After a sister selects her book, she writes the title on her Bona Opera. During Evening Prayer on Ash Wednesday, the prioress blesses our Lent books. In doing this, we honor St. Benedict’s request as we do with our Bona Operas, “Everyone should make known to the Prioress/Abbot what s/he intends to do, since it ought to be done with her/his prayer and approval” (RB 49:8).
The members of our Oblate community also each select a book to read throughout Lent. They write the title of it on their Bona Opera to let the Oblate Director know what they will be reading.
Just as in Advent, our community gathers together in “statio” before Evening Prayer on the Saturdays and Sundays of Lent. We wait together, facing forward in two lines in the hall just outside of our chapel. With dimmed lighting, we stand in silence, preparing our hearts to encounter God together during Evening Prayer.
When it is time, the Prioress leads us in procession two-by-two into chapel. Instead of carrying a lighted candle as she does in Advent, during Lent she carries a large crucifix. Together our community follows Christ who shows us the way of the cross, the way of self-sacrificing love. We know that we, too, must each take up our own cross and follow and imitate Christ even more closely these Lenten days, with the help of our Lenten practices and the blessing of God’s grace. It is a deeply personal but also a communal journey – one promising personal and communal transformation.
As we process into chapel at the start of Evening Prayer on these days, we are accompanied by a musician playing a Lent chant melody, Attende Domine. But on the First Saturday of Lent, we sing the Litany of the Saints as we walk in procession. It is very touching to remember that we not only support one another on this Lenten journey with Christ, but we also enjoy the accompaniment of the saints as they encourage us on the way that they have already walked, and from where they now live in Christ’s eternal presence. Let us all proceed together with hope in the promise of Christ.
Each Friday during Lent some of our sisters gather to pray one of the great Lent devotions of the Catholic Church – the Stations of the Cross. Our chapel hallways are graced by original wood carvings of the Stations of the Cross designed and carved by Jeannette Mesker, formerly Sr. Winifred of our community. Each carving is fitted into the limestone outer wall. Led by a different sister each week, those gathered accompany Jesus on his journey to his crucifixion and death. Some sisters walk the journey through the hallways and others pray the journey from their seats in chapel. We sing a verse of the Stabat Mater as we move from one Station to the next.
Each week the sister who is to lead this prayer choses from a variety of published reflections on the traditional Stations of the Cross. This is to help us pray for and unite the suffering people in our world today with Jesus in his suffering. On February 24 we prayed the Stations of the Cross for Peace written by Fr. Matthias Neuman, OSB, a member of St. Meinrad Archabbey and former chaplain of our community. On this day, the first-year anniversary of the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, we prayed especially for a restoration to peace between their countries.