Tautringer februar 2015

One of the joys of an early snowfall was introducing our newcomers to the Norwegian sled called a «spark». "Spark" in Norwegian means to kick, and one propels the sled forward by standing on the runners behind the handlebar, and kicking against the snow on the road. The seat is actually for your groceries or whatever you want to carry from one place to another. In places like Røros, where they have snow 9 months of the year, people use more sparks than cars and at the hotels there is a "sparking lot."

Our novitiate is bursting with new life, and this is a very exciting time for us as we mark our Sweet Sixteen birthday. Posing as the Tautra Mariakloster spark team is our novice Sr Rafael (England), postulant Renata (Poland) and observer Lieve (Belgium). In addition we have welcomed observers Claire (England) and Phuong (Vietnam/Norway). In our special circumstances as an international community, those who join us may have to take classes in both English and Norwegian, as well as learn how Cistercian life is lived today: how to do lectio divina, how to sing in choir, how to work in silence, how the Cistercian Order has developed since 1098. That is why it takes a minimum of 5 ½ years before a sister is allowed to make solemn profession.

In addition to new life, we celebrated old and deepened life: Munkeby’s Br Cyrille’s 87th birthday. Due to health reasons he had to return to Cîteaux soon afterwards. He is a wise, faithful monk and we asked him for a "word." He said the monastic life is about learning to receive: everything, even difficult and

incomprehensible things, is from God. They are gifts if we learn to open ourselves more and more to receive insights and growth from His hands.

In Br Cyrille’s farewell letter, he declared that the warmth with which the monks were received in Norway made it possible to build—not a castle or even the permanent monastery—but a solid friendship between the monks and each one, and this is a very precious gift he takes back to Cîteaux. We ask your prayers for Munkeby as they are only 3 now.

On December 6 we celebrated more old/new life: our chaplain Fr Anthony’s 70th birthday. He somewhat reluctantly agreed to a small private dinner party. Dom Richard of Roscrea secretly bought a plane ticket for Fr Liam, who also celebrated 70 years this year, and our neighbor Guri hosted him the first night so Anthony would have no idea Liam was coming to his party. Mother GilKrist invited Anthony for coffee at 10, and there was his brother from the old sod!

Fr Alberic, the abbot of Diepenveen, happened to be giving the retreat at Munkeby at this time, so he joined Fr Joël in concelebrating the Mass. When the homilist became ill, a substitute had to be found at the last minute. The task fell to Mother GilKrist, who had all of about 70 minutes to prepare, and she gave a touching homily!

Speeches were given, and the sisters each wrote a page about what she appreciated about Fr Anthony. He is known far and wide for his wise and witty sermons, and has a particular gift for speaking with our retreatants—in Norwegian, English or Irish! As one of us put it:

Who would not treasure a man who:

 Makes you smile with his sermons on a grey rainy Monday morning (I think of the famous Christmas sermons: ‘Return to sender’ and ‘Everyone has a crack‘ (after which we all cried), but my favourite sermon is of course: about a man and his dog who were refused in a fake paradise but welcomed in real paradise.

 Builds a castle for your cats

 Makes a workplace for your sculptures

 Gives you four new wheels under your chair when you asked for one

It was a wonderful celebration of a man blessed with many spiritual and practical gifts. Ad multos annos, Anthony, and may you have many more years on Tautra!

Fr Anthony’s new pond in front of the monastery

New Year’s Eve we traditionally watch H.M.Kong Harald’s speech to the nation. This year we were particularly impressed with his speech-writing ability as well as his message. He started with a quote from Danish philosopher K.E.Løgstrup: "No one can come close to another person without holding something of that person’s life in our hands." Kong Harald then built his speech on three key phrases he had received from a kindergarten class that had written a constitution for the jubilee year:

 We will speak kind words

 Big children will help small children

 All people must take care of our earth

These phrases fit very well with our monastic life. We should give good words to each other more often. Affirmation gives courage. The king proved prophetic when he said the Internet has lowered the threshold for what we allow ourselves to say about others and that freedom of speech is most difficult when we are in strong disagreement. The Charlie Hebdo massacre happened just a week later. He encouraged us to use 2015 to speak with one another face to face and have good conversation—a man after St Benedict’s heart. We need one another’s listening presence.

In Norway, 1 in 5 schoolgirls suffers from depression, often because too much is expected of them. We adults have an important task in reminding them they are good enough just as they are.

The response to our appeal for a new freezer was overwhelming! In fact we were able to buy TWO new freezers. Tusen, tusen takk! (A thousand, thousand thanks!)

The seriousness of our milieu problem is like being told we are really sick but refusing to take the lifesaving medicine. Just this winter we have experienced more extreme storms than ever before. All life is important for our earth but we are in danger of getting irreparably out of balance. Norwegians love to be out in nature—whether it’s the mountains, forest or sea. We all need to help protect everything living around us.

There is new life in our soap and cream industry too: Sr Christina has developed a new carrot-rosehip soap, and we plan to introduce a new soap made with the first milk a cow gives her calf, at the St Olav market this summer.

As part of this Year dedicated to Consecrated Life, we hosted the leadership of NUK (Norway’s Young Catholics) the last weekend in January. These dedicated youths arrange Catholic camps for children, confirmants, students, altar servers and local leaders all over the country and always bring a group to World Youth Day. We offered them a peek into Cistercian life by coming to vigils at 4.20 a.m., working with us in the soap department, eating in the guest refectory, and listening to lectures on Cistercian life, the psalms, and how lectio divina can help us in difficult relationships. We were so impressed by their commitment and service to the Catholic church in Norway.

After the general chapter last fall, we were happy to welcome M Maureen, the abbess of Wrentham in Massachusetts, for an all-too-short visit. Wrentham is our grandmotherhouse who taught the sisters at Mississippi Abbey how to make caramels.

As consecrated religious, we are deeply grateful to all of you for your practical and prayerful support which allows us to lead our life centered on worshiping God and living the gospel of Jesus in our little community on a small island in the fjord. We promise our prayers for you and all dear to you as we try especially during this year to deepen our life with God and recommit ourselves to the manifestation of His Kingdom.

With love from your sisters on Tautra

Connie is our new IT manager