Thanksgiving is in the air. It is natural at this season to pause and thank God for the blessings of the past year, both its joys and sorrows. Gratitude is about remembering….
Our lives and our world have changed in many ways this past year. Loved ones have passed from our midst, and the birth of children and new relationships have brought us new life. Our hearts expand with the joys we have known and feel confused and bewildered by the empty spaces left by sorrow and loss. The cycle of life continues….
This Thanksgiving season I share with you the blessings our community has received from an unexpected gift: four years ago, due to a set of unforeseen circumstances, the Monastery of the Incarnation became the home of my community of Carmelite Sisters in Beacon and the community of Redemptoristine sisters in Esopus. Neither community had anticipated such a drastic change, but sisters responded with courage and generosity, inspired by the lives of our foundresses and sisters who have gone before us. Our God is a God of surprises….
Often I am asked how it has been sharing the monastery with another community. We’re still all together—so that’s a good sign! So natural has it become that we be together that it is easy to forget all we’ve accomplished in these years. We’ve discovered that the gift of life we share is greater than just extra hands and extra voices. We remain two separate communities with unique charisms and spiritualities. Our common vocation as contemplative nuns in the Church is wholly dedicated to a life of prayer and contemplation, and life at the monastery is a witness of sisterly communion, unity and joy. Both communities have been stretched and challenged to learn each other’s histories and stories, to appreciate and rejoice in our saints, feasts and traditions. We share celebrations and hopes for the future. The gifts of laughter and joy uplift us; together we’ve mourned each other’s losses and shared each other’s burdens.
We share the chores of the monastery, occasionally hold joint community meetings, and have a representative liturgy committee. Our shared liturgical life—when we gather for Mass and to pray the Divine Office—reflects a contemplative quality of reverence and care.
Thanksgiving provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on God’s many gifts and to discover God’s providence and mercy in the events of our lives. Whether God’s blessings come as a surprise or are accompanied by joy and fulfillment, pain and disappointment, all life’s experiences can become stepping-stones to the heart of God. In all things give thanks to the Lord!