In April, I traveled to Ndanda Abbey in Tanzania, East Africa. It was a joy to meet again many of the people with whom I had lived and among whom I had ministered for six years in the 1990s. At Mass in my former parish of Nangoo, the joyful singing, drumming, and trilling of the choir and the congregation touched my heart anew. I could sense an infectious joy among folks who have very few material possessions, joy as a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The occasion of the visit was an international meeting of Missionary Benedictine formators, that is, of monks who are responsible for the education and formation of the young brothers in their respective monasteries. The participants hailed from all-over the world: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Togo, Korea, the Philippines, India, Germany, the United States, Cuba, and Colombia. It was truly a Spirit-filled experience of the one worldwide Church. While the main language at our daily Masses during the conference was English, the singing was in Swahili, Korean, Latin, Spanish and German. The language of the hymns depended upon the home country of the presider. Everybody had the hymn texts; and it wasn’t hard to chime in, even though we sometimes didn’t understand every single word. After all, it’s the same Mass that is celebrated on all continents of the earth!
During the sessions and the sharing in small groups which followed them, we recognized that, in spite of our great cultural diversity, the human dynamics and the challenges we face in our formation work are more or less the same all-over the earth. What we have in common as humans is so much stronger than differences in skin color and nationality! The unity in the midst of our diversity that we experienced was the work of the Holy Spirit.
It occurred to me that our St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska, is also such a place of unity in diversity. St. Benedict teaches us how to receive everyone like Christ himself: people of various cultures, people of all faiths and of no explicit faith, people of all walks of life. Thus, an ecumenism in the wide sense of the word happens at the grass roots level. People meet, share about things that matter in their lives, can join us monks for prayer, and find serenity, peace and often a deeper relationship with God.
At the north end of our lake, our Chartres style labyrinth is now completed. Come and walk it! – Especially worth noting among our upcoming retreats is the weekend by Wil Hernandez, Ph.D., on July 27 – 29, which is about the way the famous spiritual writer Henri Nouwen cared for souls: his own and those of others. Also, let me point particularly to the retreat with spiritual author Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, on September 28 – 29, titled, Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God, which is about prayer and mindfulness in the midst of daily life. - I am looking forward to seeing you again soon.
Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB, Administrator