Tautringer sept 2011

During our Eucharist on the Sunday after the tragedies, Fr Dominic (who was filling in for Fr Anthony who was in Ireland) suggested that the young people who were here on retreat light votive candles from our paschal candle. These were placed on the altar and remained burning all day as a memorial to the 77 lives that had been cut short.

"We have chosen to answer atrocity with closeness. We have chosen to meet hate with solidarity. We have chosen to show what we stand for."

Thus declared crown prince Haakon as the town square in Oslo filled with 200,000 people, each bearing a rose, three days after 77 died in the bomb explosion outside the government buildings and the massacre of youth at Utøya. Prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said the proper answer to the violence was "more democracy, more openness, but not naiveté."

When we went to bed on Friday, July 22, the news was announcing that perhaps ten of the young political leaders meeting at the Labor party camp had been shot. When we woke up for vigils Saturday, we saw with incredulity that the death toll had risen to 80. Norway is a small country (4.5 million inhabitants) with a big heart. We were proud of our government and the royal family, who in the midst of grief and sorrow at the tragic events held fast to their belief that freedom is stronger than fear, and that the Norwegian people, even while brokenhearted, would prove themselves courageous and steadfast.

A young member of our support group who helps us produce soap was standing to the side of the stage during the Rose rally. When everyone started singing "My little land", they were all weeping. He felt someone rubbing his shoulders and arms from behind, and turned to see who it was. There were two very old Muslim women in burka, and they were crying too. He realized with a flash, "It’s not us and them, it’s WE."

Many of our friends sent messages of condolence and support, and expressed how impressed they were with the mature and restrained manner in which the Norwegian people were responding. The Fetzer Institute (Kalamazoo, MI) has offered $10,000 for us to create a memorial garden for the victims of 22.07.11. We have formed a committee to design it; one of the ideas is to turn our "desert" garden near the church into an oasis.

Our novitiate has a new flower: Wei Zhang of Shanghai received the Cistercian habit on May 1 and became Sr Mary Eleanor, OCSO. She chose the day because it was the day of Pope John Paul II’s beatification. At a special Mass at Nidaros Cathedral that evening, with more in attendance than even on the Feast of St Olav, Sr Eleanor proclaimed the first reading from the pulpit. The program for her clothing contained a quotation of Bl.John Paul II: Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.

In early June, M Martha of Gedono (Indonesia) came to give us our annual retreat. She spoke on seeking the Face of Jesus, using Pope Benedict’s book on the passion and resurrection of Jesus as a starting point. The coming of Jesus as a human being and his perfect obedience in taking on the sin of the world has really made it possible for us to be reconciled and return to union with God.

It had been 12 years since Tautra had received a visit of the abbot general, so we were delighted to welcome Dom Eamon July 13-15. He had time for an interview with each sister, a community dialogue looking toward the election of a new prioress next March, and a picnic in our garden outside the kitchen.

Soon after Dom Eamon came a member of his council residing in Rome, M Regina of Abakaliki (Nigeria). She came to make her personal retreat, but we also heard how the Order is faring in Africa, and even enjoyed some Nigerian dancing. When she returned to the generalate, someone asked, "Where is the Order going?" and she replied, "It’s going to Tautra!"

Perhaps the most joyous event of the summer was Sr Marjoe’s golden jubilee. On August 22 we celebrated a special Eucharist during which Sr Marjoe renewed the vows "stability, faithfulness to the monastic life and obedience according to the Rule of St Benedict" which she made first in 1961.

In his homily, Fr Anthony brought out the main characteristics of Sr Marjoes life. She always has "plenty" to give, whether it’s stocking the guest kitchen or giving away her time. As the guest sister, it’s her smiling face that welcomes many to Tautra Mariakloster. She has really taken to heart St Benedict’s urging that Christ be seen in each guest. (Tore Jakobsen said once when he was taking a passport photo, This is going to be difficult for Sr Marjoe, now that you’re not allowed to smile.) Fr Anthony said Sr Marjoe was like a bird coming to rest for the night: it locks its feet around the branch. A storm can rage around it and it will continue to sleep safely. The "storm" in Sr Marjoe’s life perhaps was being chosen to be a foundress twice, first to Mississippi Abbey and then Tautra. She served as prioress (second superior) at Mississippi 1989-1993.

Sr Marjoe was the first of the nuns who are now on Tautra to see the lighthouse on the point by the ruins. Now, said Fr Anthony, she has become a lighthouse who gives comfort and safety to many. Some of our guests at the jubilee dinner gave speeches, and many of them underlined how important it was that it was Sr Marjoe who joined Sr Ina for her trial monastery.

It was already as a 13-year-old that Sr Marjoe felt so grateful for all that God had given her that she wanted to give her whole life in return. Gratitude is still a main theme in Sr Marjoe’s life. "I can never thank God enough," she says daily.

Congratulations on your 50th anniversary of profession, dear Sr Marjoe!

As this issue goes to press, both M Rosemary and Sr Hanne-Maria (delegate of the Region of the Isles) are at the General Chapter in Assisi. Shortly before they left, we were honored to be chosen by our commune as the most important "cultural heritage site" to have been established in Frosta since 1945. The citation stated that Tautra Mariakloster is both a historic marker that the people of Frosta are proud of and that the monastery inspires the development of other cultural monuments in the commune. "The nuns have done a remarkable job with architecture, marketing and sale of their own products, in addition to making available their prayer services in a church which is open to everyone. Such an openness and a presence in the society make historic values and traditions a natural part of Frosta’s identity." We are touched to have been so well received, and that the local people have really understood what we are about as Cistercian nuns.

Norway does not use checks, so the bank now charges us 300 kroner (about $55) to cash a check, no matter how small. PLEASE DO NOT SEND US ANY CHECKS! Though the Region of the Isles CD which was recorded in our church last January will be available for sale in our shop, the production, import and then postage costs to the US make sales outside Norway prohibitive. (It would cost $47.) We are sorry.

We are looking for volunteers to take care of the rooms in our guesthouses, be the cashier at our shop, and help with soap production. Volunteers participate in our prayer, live in the guesthouse, receive room and board, and some pocket money. We prefer a volunteer who can stay one to three months and up to a year. For more information see www.tautra.no.

Cardinal Kurt Koch of Basel with Bishop Bernt of Oslo and the apostolic nuncio Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig.