Tautringer March 2012

Our new prioress: Mother GilKrist

On March 26, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the community of Tautra Mariakloster elected Sr. GilKrist Lavigne as prioress for a 6-year term. She was novice director when she was elected, and she has led the development of our soap industry since the monastery’s beginning in 1999. In fact, she had experimented with making soap as a hobby in Mississippi Abbey’s basement, where she kept company with frogs in the summer and mice in the winter. She has been engaged in monastic interreligious dialogue for many years.

Mother GilKrist was born in Montreal, and grew up in Chicago. She entered the Benedictines in 1968. After some years in our monastery Santa Rita in Arizona, she transferred to Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, and made solemn profession there in 1990. She was chosen to be a foundress of Tautra Mariakloster in 1999, and became a Norwegian citizen in 2007. As the foundresses drove through Frosta toward Tautra on February 28, 1999, Sr GilKrist was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the fjord and peninsula and exclaimed, "I can’t believe I get to live here the rest of my life!" She reminisces that Norway was so much like Canada that moving here was like coming home.

Mother Nettie declares Tautra Mariakloster a major priory.

The day before the election, March 25, Tautra Mariakloster was raised to the rank of Major Priory. This is a juridical change which does not really affect our daily life. Tautra Mariakloster graduated from being a foundation to being an autonomous monastery with the status of simple priory on March 25, 2006 and elected Mother Rosemary our first prioress the next day.

At the General Chapter of September 2011 held in Assisi, we asked to be elevated to a Major Priory, which can no longer ask the motherhouse for help with regard to finances or personnel. The Chapter voted its approval, and our Father Immediate, Dom Richard Purcell of Roscrea Abbey in Ireland, suggested we celebrate the ceremony on March 25, which is the foundation anniversary of both the original Tautra Mariakloster and the present monastery.

The final juridical step, to become an abbey, requires 13 professed nuns. Pray for an abundance of new and persevering vocations!

Sr Rosemary, who led our community for its first 13 years, promises obedience to the newly elected prioress.

The General Chapter of 2011 was itself historic. Until the 1970s, only the abbots met as the General Chapter of the Order, and the abbesses were simply told of the legislation that had been made. Our Order is unique in the church in that both monks and nuns live under a single set of constitutions. In recent decades we had petitioned the Holy See for permission to have both abbots and abbesses meeting in a single General Chapter, but the request was denied. During one of the last sessions of what was called the Mixed General Meeting of 2011, our procurator general, Dom Timothy Kelly, announced that the petition had been approved, and the meeting became the first single General Chapter in the history of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance.

At the time of writing of the previous Tautringer, both Mother Rosemary and Sr Hanne-Maria were in Assisi at the Chapter. All the superiors (178 worldwide) are required to attend, and Sr Hanne-Maria had been elected delegate of the Region of the Isles. Since she is a former journalist, as soon as she arrived, she was asked to write the daily blog of the chapter in English for the Order’s website. She did a wonderful job, reporting in an engaging and informative way, so English-speaking communities could follow the decisions and work of the Chapter. (The Order’s official languages are French, English and Spanish.) Sr Hanne-Maria’s blog is still available at http://ocso-mgm-en.blogspot.com/ if you would like to taste the flavor of the deliberations of our Order’s highest authority.

At the end of January we were treated to conferences given by Br Simeon Leiva of Spencer Abbey in Massachusetts. He is finishing his third volume of a verse-by-verse commentary on the gospel of Matthew (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, published by Ignatius Press) and chose to speak on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in chapter 25. Br Simeon is a gifted linguist and animated lecturer, and we were captivated by his meditation on this wedding feast at the center of the universe. The soul’s relationship to the Bridegroom who is coming to each of us at the end of our life, as well as at the end of time, is the very fabric of which our daily life as monks and nuns should be made. No one else can love Jesus in the precise way we each do, nor can he love us in some general way, but only in the particular way we each can receive it.

Br Simeon in our scriptorium with St Bernard pointing the way in the background.

Br Simeon was invited to be the keynote speaker on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. All the religious in the Trondheim diocese come together for this conference and dialogue on the topic, a Mass in thanksgiving for our vocation, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and then a festive dinner together. This was the first time the secular priests of the diocese were included, and when Br Simeon said that our call is really to BE WITH the Lord, and not to DO anything for him, he struck a chord that resonated equally with busy priests who minister out in society and contemplatives who remain in their monasteries. The dinner lasted until late in the evening because Br Simeon plucked up a guitar and then several religious with hitherto hidden talents led the assembly in popular songs in English (Bob Dylan), Spanish, French, Polish, and Korean.

Fr Ælred quoting his favorite Cistercian saint—St Ælred!

The input from Br Simeon was followed immediately by our community retreat, preached this year by Fr Ælred of Bethlehem Abbey in Northern Ireland. He is also a dynamic speaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of the writings of our Cistercian Fathers. He refreshed us with some of the basic values and practices in Cistercian monastic life and inspired us to reclaim the solid and nourishing foundation of our heritage. Fr Ælred is a wonderful Irish priest who punctuated his conversation with the affirmation, "God love you!" so often that we indeed felt confirmed in the mystery of God’s unending love for us.

Both these our brothers in the Order laid the groundwork for our preparation for the election in March, and we see how the Holy Spirit delights in breathing surprises upon our adventure with the Lord. The first three abbots of Cîteaux had very different personalities and each brought a particular gift to the New Monastery. As we enter into the second phase of our life as Tautra Mariakloster under Mother GilKrist’s leadership, we ask your prayers that we will remain open to the Holy Spirit’s surprises and stay peaceful amid all the challenges and changes that are to come. We say with Dag Hammarskjold: "For all that has been, thanks; for all that will be, YES!"

With love from your sisters on Tautra

Our chaplain Fr Anthony dressed as a leprechaun, enjoying real Irish coffee on St Patrick’s Day.

Once a year we practice a fire drill, just in case. Sr Eleanor opens the fire hose in the Zen garden.

Our indefatigable support group celebrated its 20th anniversary last fall. Six women each put a 10-kroner coin on the table as the beginning of our building fund—which grew to 50 million kroner! They also promised to pray every evening at 6:00 for a Cistercian foundation in Norway. Sr Marjoe recalls the early days.

Sr Anne Elizabeth is from Mobile, Alabama and helps us observe Mardi Gras by baking the traditional King Cake. The next day, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent. Sr GilKrist never suspected the form the cross of ashes would take this year!

It’s been a very rainy spring. Those who dared, took a walk to the ruins on Sr Rosemary’s birthday.

The Tautra community with former and present abbesses of Mississippi Abbey.

February 2, celebration of religious life in Trondheim: there were 18 Cistercians present, including Dom Olivier of Cîteaux and Fr Rufus who were visiting Munkeby, Br Simeon, and Srs Mairead and Denise of Glencairn.

Dom Richard is an accomplished organist and treated us to an impromptu concert.

The novitiate and juniorate singing at Mass on March 26.