I like this prayer by St. Patrick:
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ on the deck,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
-- from the prayer of St. Patrick
You can read about St. Patrick here.
I bring you this prayer not to talk about St. Patrick, although his life was very interesting. I bring it to you to talk about something that is on my heart regarding Christ being the most important thing in our lives, so much so that he rubs off onto everything we do. While fasting for Lent, I have learned about my dependence on physical things like sweets and have tried to replace them with a dependence on Christ. It sounds kind of silly to pray when I crave sweets, but it does help move me through those few moments and it helps someone else while I'm doing it because I try to pray for others.
Mike and I saw a real example of living in Christ when we visited the Benet Hill Monastery. Most of the nuns ... the sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict ... live together in the monastery, though some live in the Colorado Springs area where they conduct their ministries. They are not a cloistered house, and have not worn the traditional habit since Vatican II. They live by the Rule of Benedict, which is centered on the application of Scripture to life, and particularly on life in community with others. The sisters work for the common good, helping each other, and working so that the monastery is self-sustaining. Everything they did was for the common good, such as complying with Benedict's rules on promptness, subordination to the authority of the prioress, making decisions a community process. They craft, do needlework and make breads and jellies and sell them in the bookstore so that the community can support itself. They also run an extended health care community, a library, and provide classes in spiritual direction. They host retreats and provide meeting places for an eclectic representation of most, if not all, of the faiths, Christian and non-Christian, in the area. In the past they have been teachers, but since the closing of the school some years ago, they've had to change what they do in order to keep their ministry vital.
The most meaningful time to me, during our weekend stay, was at Vespers, or evening prayers. During this time, the sisters sang, or chanted, the Psalms and other scriptures responsively. Everything was in English so I could understand and they let Mike and I join along. They also helped us find what pages we needed to turn to and told us how everything worked. As we prayed, it was a beautiful time of praising God with the word and I could feel the Holy Spirit there among us.
We also joined the sisters for lunch and had a very nice time talking with a few of them. I also noticed that the first two sisters who sat at our table sat right next to us on either side rather than across from us as is common for most people.
Even though we visited the monastery about a month ago, I have not written much on it. It has taken a while to digest everything. The sisters "rubbed off on me" in more ways that I imagined; the trip affected me deeply. If you want to see some pictures from our visit look at our photo gallery on WritingPlaces.com. As you can see from the pictures, it snowed and although the snow buried the labyrinth and the Stations of the Cross walk, we were still fed by the Spirit. There was just something about the quietness and solitude of that place that filled my soul with peace.
One of the gifts that St. Benedict encouraged in his rule was hospitality. He said that "all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ." As far as we're concerned, the sisters fulfill this mission. We left Benet Hill Monastery with changed hearts and we would like to return sometime.