A first profession…
At chapter preceding the celebration of the Eucharist on November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, our Sister Christy, originally from the Netherlands, made her first profession of vows. As far as we know, it was the first time anyone has made Cistercian profession on Norwegian soil since the Middle Ages. Following the ritual of the Order, Sr.Christy first knelt in the chapter room as M.Rosemary posed the question, "What do you ask?" Christy gave the traditional answer, "The mercy of God and of the Order."
She had chosen the fourth degree of humility to be read from the Rule of St Benedict: that a monk embrace patiently with a silent heart the difficult, contrary and even unjust things she will encounter in the monastery. M.Rosemary gave a beautiful chapter talk in which she outlined Sr.Christy’s long quest. (The talk is available at http://www.tautra.no/index.asp?pagename=firstvows.) The candidate was then questioned about her desire to become more closely united with God by following the hard and narrow way of fidelity and perseverance, solitude and silence, prayer, lectio and manual labor, willing penance and community living.
Sr.Christy then pronounced her vow formula and signed it: I, sister Maria Elisabeth Anthonia Christina van Opzeeland, promise stability, conversion of my way of life and obedience for one year in accordance with the Rule of our holy father St Benedict. I do this before God and all his saints, in Tautra Mariakloster of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, raised to the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God, and in the presence of Mother Rosemary, prioress of this monastery.
M.Rosemary embraced the newly professed, said a prayer over her, and then clothed her in the black scapular and leather belt which symbolizes being led by another and giving up one’s own will. While this was being done, the community sang "I will sing forever of the mercies of the Lord" and as the concluding act of the ritual, Sr.Christy took her place among the professed sisters.
…and a silver jubilee
While Sr.Christy’s first profession was a significant step in our growth as a new community, we also show signs of being a maturing community as we celebrate profession anniversaries. M.Rosemary celebrated her golden jubilee last summer, and Sr.Sheryl marked 25 years of profession on December 8. She had a long and crooked journey from growing up in New Jersey, was baptized in the Pacific Ocean at 17, and confirmed a Catholic while a student at Yale. She entered Santa Rita in Arizona and made profession there, then moved to Mississippi Abbey in Iowa while they were in the process of discerning whether to make a foundation. One week after changing her stability to Mississippi, she came to Tautra where she fell in love with the beauty of the island and felt the spiritual waves from the Cistercian monks who lived here in the Middle Ages.
Sr.Sheryl’s jubilee Mass booklet featured drawings from her favorite study project, which is about dwelling in Jesus’ wounds by meditation, and how we all—who become wounded as we go through life—can bring forth from that which seems most destructive, something that is life-giving—for ourselves and for others. A drawing of a nun who embraces and is embraced by a love which is much bigger than she is, was taken from her solemn profession booklet. In the end, monastic life is about love. The gospel she chose was from John 19: They will look on him whom they have pierced sums up what she desires her life as a nun to be about: to spend one’s whole life contemplating Jesus on the cross.
In September 2009 Sr.Sheryl turned in her application to become a Norwegian citizen. This is a long process which S.GilKrist went through several years ago. In October 2010 she received a letter from the Norwegian authorities saying she fulfilled all the requirements, like living in Norway for at least 7 years. She then had to go to the American embassy in Oslo to renounce her American citizenship because Norway does not allow dual citizenship. At the time of her jubilee, Sr.Sheryl belonged to no country and had no passport. It was not easy to cut the umbilical cord to her home country, but she felt called to do this in faith because Tautra
is really home now and she belongs here. Finally, she received a letter declaring her a Norwegian citizen which allows her to apply for a Norwegian passport. The letter is dated January 25, 2011, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and also the eve of the Solemnity of our Founders of Cîteaux. Sts.Robert, Alberic and Stephen were known as "lovers of the community and of the place," and this seems to echo Sr.Sheryl’s experience of God’s leading her to a new land.
As you know, Cîteaux has again sent four "lovers of the community and of the place": our brothers at Munkeby Mariakloster. We were privileged to have our community retreat preached by Fr.Joël Regnard, the superior there, who is an expert on the spirituality of St.Bernard. Munkeby has earned every kind of superlative for their special cheese, made with bacteria and brine carefully brought from Cîteaux, and unpasteurized milk from their neighbors’ cows. You can see a video on Munkeby which includes Tautra Mariakloster at the end at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmCqPv5lnPY
Lately they have also been in the spotlight as monks carrying on the Cistercian tradition of our brothers who were kidnapped and assassinated in Algeria in 1996. The film "Of Gods and Men" has received critical acclaim all over Europe and has now premiered in Trondheim. Those of us who saw the film found it authentic: it captured the simplicity and heartfelt devotion of our liturgy, and the warm and caring relationship between the monks and the local population as "lovers of the community and of the place." We hope the film kindles the spark of a vocation to our life in young people all over the world.
At our Region of the Isles meeting last year, Dom Richard of Roscrea gathered a small schola to sing some special chants and polyphony during the Masses for the week. It went
over so well that one of the delegates suggested making a CD. It would be a way of saying that our Region faces many challenges, particularly many elderly monks with few vocations entering, but that we can also collaborate to create something beautiful. Tautra was proposed as the site for the recording of the CD, because of the acoustics in our church and our beautiful organ with all wooden pipes. The last week of January we were host to four monks from Ireland, Wales and England and two Irish nuns who together with three of our sisters comprised the schola that recorded several polyphony pieces, some Mass chants, office chants and processional chants. The CD concludes with the Tautra community singing Compline in Norwegian. Dom Richard plans to produce the CD in time for the General Chapter being held in September, and it will be for sale at all the monasteries in the Region of the Isles (see http://www.ocso.org/index.php?option=com_mtree&task=advsearch2&search_id=102&Itemid=88&lang=en). We enjoyed getting to know these talented musicians of our Region and sharing our island home as "lovers of the place."
With love from your sisters on Tautra
Postulant Eleanor arrived from Shanghai on Sr.Marjoe’s 70th birthday. What a great birthday present!