The highlight of our summer was the celebration of M Rosemary’s golden jubilee of monastic profession. July 1, 1960, on the Feast of the Precious Blood, she first pronounced her vows of stability, conversion and obedience according to the Rule of St Benedict, at Mount St Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, Mass. Four years later she was one of 12 foundresses sent to Dubuque, Iowa to begin Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, and in 1999 she was sent as the designated superior to establish the new Tautra Mariakloster in Norway.
It has not always been an easy journey. When Rosemary was a teenager, she used to add to her thanksgiving after receiving Communion, the prayer: "O God, please don’t make me a nun!" A Jesuit priest advised her not to worry about it, that God would change her heart to make her want religious life if it was His will. God did, and M Rosemary declares "I have never been tempted to turn away from this vocation which has become ever dearer to me as I have come to experience the meaning and purpose of Christ's gift. In many ways I am still the rebellious, opinionated extrovert I was then. However, the years have changed and moulded me in many ways. I learned to appreciate the silence and now am happiest when in solitude. Grace and the life we live have helped me to be more balanced and develop the other side of my personality. The Eucharist and divine office prayed seven times a day in choir plus the opportunities for quiet prayer have nourished me with the riches of our faith and the words of Scripture. These are a source of tremendous joy to me."
Following the rite of our Order, M Rosemary renewed her vows during the celebration of Mass and received a staff for support on the journey, carved by Br.Cyril of Munkeby who also celebrated his golden jubilee this summer. The Mass was followed by a festive meal, to which many of those who have supported our foundation by their prayers and sacrifices were invited. One of the toasts proclaimed M Rosemary a "woman of the Church" and she received the papal blessing. We all wish her Ad multos annos!
When the volcano on Iceland erupted, the ash cloud blew directly over Norway and all the airports were immediately closed. We had three visiting monks at the time, from Koningshoeven in The Netherlands when their flight was cancelled. They stayed an extra day but prior Isaac was chomping at the bit to get home in time for Br Wolfgang’s solemn profession (we thought he might have to make his stability to Tautra). They ended up taking a train to Oslo, and then a boat to Denmark, and were finally picked up by their abbot several hours’ drive from their monastery.
Br. Wolfgang, Fr. Isaac and Br.Franciscus from the Netherlands, outside Nidaros cathedral.
One of our founders in the 12th century, St Stephen Harding, was an organizational genius who wrote the Charter of Charity which seeks to preserve a unity of observance by binding all our monasteries, both monks and nuns, together by juridical ties as well as ties of affection. Our Order basically invented the General Chapter when all our superiors meet to discuss legislative and pastoral problems, and this system of meetings has been copied by many other orders in the church. Another way we remain connected with each other is that every monastery has a Father Immediate who makes a biennial Visitation of each daughterhouse for which he is responsible. Our new Father Immediate, Dom Richard of Roscrea, made his first one of Tautra Mariakloster in May. Despite his youth, he demonstrated an ability to listen to each one and encouraged us to continue to bring to full flower our "hidden apostolic fruitfulness" as Cistercian nuns on this small island in the Trondheim fjord. The challenge for any Christian community is to live out the values of the gospel by receiving one another as Christ as we journey together toward God.
Our Father Immediate Dom Richard Purcell with Mother Rosemary during our visitation.
On June 12 we had a priestly ordination in our church. Per Einar Odden is a local lad who did his seminary work in England. He really loves "the Tautra sisters" and had long wanted to be ordained in the monastic church of Tautra Mariakloster—and we had certainly been praying for his vocation all these years, just as he was one of the first members of our support group. Sixteen seminarians filled our guesthouse, and 20 concelebrating priests were the most we’ve ever had in our sanctuary. It was an impressive, two-hour ceremony, many parts of which are reminiscent of a monastic solemn profession. Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo highlighted how unusual it was to have an ordination in the midst of a contemplative women’s community, but that this was appropriate because a monastery is a center of prayer which radiates outward to support all the ministries in the church. It was an honor for us to host the ordination, the first of three this summer, all for the diocese of Oslo. Photos: http://galleri.katolsk.no/thumbnails.php?album=43
July 29, the Feast of St Olav, is the one day each year we can celebrate Catholic Mass in Nidaros cathedral. This year the entrance procession stopped traffic!
Olsok, the Feast of St Olav, is the highpoint of the summer, when many pilgrims make their way to his grave in Nidaros cathedral and to Stiklestad where he died in battle. St Olav, Norway’s "eternal king," is credited with making Norway into a Christian country. Tautra is also becoming a place of pilgrimage, because it is right at the heart of the story of St Olav and the beginnings of Norway as a law-abiding land. We were invited to the premiere of this year’s production of the outdoor play at Stiklestad which emphasized the religious aspect in contrast to the secularized versions of recent years. The public loved it, and it was very moving when at the end, actors dressed as pilgrims carrying staffs came down to the scene from behind the audience.
One of our visitors was former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, with the two closest county governors and their wives. He is an ordained Lutheran minister and belongs to the Christian Democrat Party. Last year he had invited Sr GilKrist to participate in a meeting of governmental and religious leaders who wanted to propose a United Nations resolution to preserve holy sites. She reciprocated the invitation, and we were honored to receive our guests for a tour of the monastery, a simple dinner and spiritual conversation in our chapter room. Bondevik now runs the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights which works for human rights, the development of democracy and interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
The Oslo Center for Peace is not the same as the Nobel Peace Center, which Sr Anne Elizabeth had the chance to visit while in Oslo for a Norwegian course. She brought back some postcards of quotations of Peace Prize laureates, and in these times of so much intolerance between people of different races, cultures, faiths and political convictions, and even within one religion and in our own hearts, the words of the Dalai Lama seem particularly appropriate: "In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher."
May we all unite in praying for and practicing the reverence for one another as temples of the Holy Spirit that Jesus came to show us as the way to the Heart of God.
With love from your sisters on Tautra
Check out our new vocations website: www.klosterliv-monasticlife.org. It is in both Norwegian and English with a blog that is frequently updated with spiritual reflections.
Determined beauty: a volunteer poppy springs up between the flagstones outside our kitchen.
The pink and orange hues of an 11 p.m. sunset reflected in our refectory windows.