Dear Friends of Tautra Mariakloster, The Queen has visited, Sr. Hanne-Maria has returned, our retreat is over, and our new chaplain has arrived.
So things are pretty much back to normal, and we are beginning a new chapter in our life as Tautra Mariakloster. As the Big Day approached, our house began to fill up. Our guests included Al McDonald, Sr Aelred representing Laval, Martha Mangan of Minnesota, and Bishop John Gran (a Cistercian and former bishop of Oslo). Mother Gail Fitzpatrick (abbess of our founding house, Mississippi Abbey) was reader at Mass the morning of the day the Queen was to arrive. The reading from Acts happened to mention Candace, "a name which means queen." What are the chances of that happening? Sonja was right on time, arriving at our driveway at 6:01 Wednesday evening, May 7. It was quite a sight: A bunch of cloistered nuns waiting to welcome a queen to spend the night, with the press watching us waiting. We each shook her hand and managed to say something in norsk without committing any faux pas. She is a very gracious lady, warm, simple, "ordinary," and we were at ease immediately. In less than an hour she was due at a dinner hosted by the Fylkesmann. Mother Gail had been debating all week about whether she should go to this dinner or not, since we would be up until about 11, and our ceremony was the next day. It turns out it’s a good thing she went. The three of us (Srs Gilchrist, Hanne-Maria and I) had free seating, but Mother Gail was assigned the place directly opposite the Queen! The dinner was superb: salmon tart with a white wine, followed by nut-roasted lamb, fried potatoes, fresh mushrooms, carrots and broccoli, cooked to perfection al dente, gravy and a red wine, strawberry mousse for dessert—served with a strawberry leaf and three strawberry flowers on the plate. Eleganza! On Thursday, May 8 we had a special Tierce with the Queen and her entourage. She then left for the bridge-opening ceremony. By 1:00 we were lined up at the belltower and ready to process over to the new site. As soon as we started the ceremony, a terrific, cold wind blew up, and continued throughout the ceremony. It was all we could do to keep our veils from blowing off, and we cut out two of the songs we were going to sing. It’s a good thing S. Gilchrist had decided not to play the harp. It would have been impossible. We had a hard time hearing the speeches because we were behind the microphone and the wind was whipping the amplifiers. (Fortunately the people could hear because they were in front of the sound system.) Our bishop Georg Müller (the main celebrant) reminded everyone that the Spirit blows where it
will, and Fr. Michael took it as a sign of the Holy Spirit, a new Pentecost on Tautra. Mother Gail gave the opening words (in english, with Sr Ina translating). Current mayor Boje Reitan responded in norwegian. There was a prayer, a song, a scripture reading ("As you come to him, the living stone, rejected by the builders but chosen by God and precious to him, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ"), and Bishop Müller’s homily. Then Bishop Müller blessed the site with holy water. Mother Rosemary explained the contents of the steel box which traditionally is sealed into the wall of a new church: We included a copy of the document the Queen signed, stones from each of the motherhouses the sisters come from, stones from earlier monasteries in Norway such as Lysekloster, Munkeby and Selje, medals of St Benedict, Our Lady and St Joseph, and a photo of the sisters. If the new monastery lasts 800 years and then becomes ruins, someone who discovers this box will think of us and all those who were present for this foundation-stone ceremony. Bishop Finn Wagle (the Lutheran bishop of Nidaros) explained the stone’s origins: it was one of the original stones of Nidaros cathedral, was given to the US, and then brought back to Norway by Sr Hanne-Maria. Wagle made a beautiful analogy between the cornerstone and the bridge: the stone is a bridge between the middle ages and now, a bridge across the Atlantic ocean, and a bridge between different faiths. Also as the bridge to Tautra now allows the water to flow through, so the monastery opens the living water flowing from the source. (Later he told us that he hadn’t planned to say that, but had thought it up during the bridge ceremony!) The Queen signed the foundation document, and the stone. Mother Rosemary placed the box in the ground, and Bishop Wagle placed the stone in the ground. The Queen then shoveled (vigorously!) some sand into the hole. (Since the church is not yet built, the burying was symbolic. We are having the Queen’s signature engraved on the stone, and it will be placed in the church wall where everyone can see it.) Both mayors said wonderful things. Boje Reitan said Tautra Mariakloster will help others re-discover the hidden paths in themselves. Jens Hagerup that our Order has fallen in love with Tautra, that the Cistercians belong here. The Queen was interviewed by the press after the ceremony, and she said Tautra Mariakloster will answer a steadily increasing need for places of peace and time to meditate. Her secretary said later her support of monasteries had been at the very limit of what she could say as Queen (the King is the head of the Lutheran church here). Our luncheon went very well, though we were a little behind schedule. Rosemary had baked a hundred crescent rolls, and we had pesto-and-breadcrumb-coated salmon, with Frosta carrots
and Tautra potatoes in the form of a Frosta rose, a nice gewurtztraminer, and of course we had ice cream with pecan-caramel sauce for dessert. Our architect Jan Olav Jensen gave a short presentation of the plans for the new monastery. (He has developed a website from which you can download photos of the new design and model: http://jsa.no/download/tautra/default.html) At about 6:30 we met in the chapel for our private audience. We had earlier given her secretary a lot of gifts for the Queen, including a pastel drawing of the ruins in the snow that S. Paul-Marie had done. We showed her the model of the new monastery, and she gave us a pair of lovely, pewter candlesticks with her initial on them. She gave each of us a hug when we said goodbye, which S. Ina says is NOT protocol! We invited her back to take secret refuge in the prelate’s suite when the monastery is finished. Then she was gone. Then we said goodbye to Fr Michael who was leaving at 4:00 the next morning. One of our neighbors wrote a poem that came out in Frostingen this week. Roughly translated: Cloister Night A solitary light shines in the night at the nuns’ Over our queen at Tautra Mariakloster No resplendent luxury But a simplicity and warm-hearted welcome Worthy of a queen. The cloister night lies warm and still Everything is made one Earth and sea and sky. It rained all the next day, so we were grateful the ceremony hadn’t been that day. We’ve each been thinking about that terrific wind, which on one level could be taken as ruining the ceremony. We happen to be reading Belden Lane’s The Solace of Fierce Landscapes in refectory. Lane writes about Mount Sinai that the mountain discloses the divine mystery in the process of hiding it. Most of the energy of the metaphor is found in what it does not say. What is important is what is not seen. We couldn’t hear the speakers. Maybe what is important is what was not heard. Exodus 19 describes Sinai as hidden in thunder, lightning and thick clouds. The mountain terrifies, yet draws us into its mystery. The Midrash expanded Sinai’s description as a hostile, horrible and dreadful wilderness. This is exactly what the first monks at Cîteaux did, describing the place as rarely approached because of the thickness of grove and thornbush, and inhabited
only by wild beasts. The horrifying landscape serves as a backdrop for the grace of God, protecting from harm. We were going to sing verses from Ps 90, about protection, but we omitted this because of the wind! Sinai was chosen for the revelation of the Law because it was barren and insignificant. Perhaps God has chosen the new site because it is ordinary and has its terrible side. Christianity, more than Judaism and Islam, has been concerned with place, maybe because of our emphasis on the incarnation. Cistercians are known for taking the incarnation seriously. Yes, Tautra is beautiful, but it also can be terrifying. God is revealed in the beauty AND the wind of Tautra. The mystery is "the uncontrollable and unpredictable quality of God’s choice of place." God has chosen Tautra. Yes, we belong here. Lane was asked to bring a pebble back from both Sinai and Tabor. When he found a smooth, white stone on Tabor, he was reminded of Rev 2, that we each will receive a white stone with our new name written on it. He comments that the names written on stones we recognize as our own, are always carved in love. This is what Sonja has done: she has written her name on our stone in love. Fr Anthony O’Brien is our new chaplain, from Roscrea. He loves cats and he likes to go fishing! He said he grew up by the sea, so he feels right at home. His first homily was a big hit. He said, Here we are, just 8 of us on this little island, and what can we do to bring God’s love to the world? After the tremendous changes in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was asked where he got his inspiration. He said, Lech Walesa. Walesa in turn was asked who inspired him, and he said Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. King had gotten his inspiration from Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus one day because she was so tired. So the unbelievable changes in world government came about because of one little lady on a bus. If we can live the gospel authentically on Tautra, we can change the world.
Your Sisters on Tautra