The New Year comes quietly in the Abbey. The rolling over of a new day isn’t permitted to take too much upon itself. For us, assessments are made day in and day out, and a new page is turned whenever the old becomes brittle, selfish, or self-satisfied. Change is never far from us. The making of resolutions is nothing new to us. The keeping of them keeps us within these walls, invisible though they are.
Even so, the first day of a New Year is an event, a milestone, and particularly for Cor Unum Abbey. It was founded on New Year’s Eve, with these words . . .
Every evening, in Bethlehem, Connecticut, forty Benedictine nuns settle into the Grand Silence that follows Compline, the last Office of the day. All speech is curtailed but for prayer and praise during Matins at 1:50 a.m., and the profound monastic silence continues until well after daybreak . . .
We are cyber nuns here in Cor Unum Abbey. We come from lots of different backgrounds, churches, and inspirations. We are cloistered in houses and apartment buildings and dorm rooms; some of us have husbands and children, many are quite alone. What we share is a determined search for the Nearness of God in the happy faith that if we seek Him, we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:12-14) We aren’t playing at monasticism, not at all. We have discovered this truth, that no one can live out our lives in Christ for us. No one can make us worship or pray, no one can hope or love or trust in our place, but then, no one can take any of that from us, either. To each is given a place in Christ, and that is our monastery, our cloister. Jesus promised, “I will come to you,” and we make of our hearts an Abbey where He is pleased to dwell and where, by His own word, He will abide with us.
We welcome you. As the days go by, we will see with increasing certainty and joy that the human heart is the monastery where those who love the Lord may fellowship with Him, where He will come and stay, never leaving, never forsaking us. Married or single, whatever your age, the nuns of Cor Unum Abbey welcome you. Though we live thousands of miles apart, what we share is vital and valid. Whether life for you seems frantic and beyond any hope of order or stillness, or if your life has become so quiet and lonely that you wonder why you’re still living it, there is a habit for you here, a holy habit of worship, of joy and fulness and of the peaceful, powerful obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
For today, on this first day of a new year, we are taking a moment to remember that Jesus told us how to find the “work of God.” It is, He said, “to believe on the One whom He has sent.” (John 6:29) That is our vocation, a worthy one indeed! As we live out our lives in the Abbey we will discover simple, happy, effective ways of laying aside every sin and weight that would keep us from running this divine race, the goal of which is CHRIST!
Inside these walls, you won’t miss the will of God, even while you hold down a demanding job, fulfill civic obligations, drive children to sports and practices, fold clothes, wash dishes, love your husband, or, as many women have found even more difficult, as you face another day alone and without even the anchor of work and obligation. Postulants and novices are we all; tomorrow, we will take a look at our only vow.
– Fleury-François Richard of Milan Mourning her Husband