I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you - Nobody - too? Then there's a pair of us! Don't tell! they'd advertise - you know! How dreary - to be - Somebody! How public - like a Frog - To tell one's name - the livelong June - To an admiring Bog!Emily Dickinson
Whenever I’ve considered the question of who am I to write a blog on Benedictine spirituality, this poem by Emily Dickinson always jumps to mind. I’m nobody.
At least, I’m no expert on Benedictine spirituality. I’m not even Catholic. I practice Benedictine spirituality in my life, but not well. In 2017 I made my oblation to Our Lady of Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts. Since then I’ve faithfully attended most of our meetings. I’ve also gone on personal retreats as often as I could. But just attaching myself to an Abbey doesn’t make me a good Benedictine. I live too much of my life away from the Abbey for their practice of the Rule to help me much.
In 2017 I promised “to dedicate myself to the service of God and to all people according to the Rule of St. Benedict.” It’s easy to do that when I’m at the Abbey, in the company of monks and other Oblates. There I have no distractions, and my activities are structured around the five corporate prayer times observed by the Abbey. The bell reminds me when it’s time to stop what I’m doing for prayer. Everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. It’s easy to follow along.
But then I go home to southern New Hampshire. That’s about an hour and 20 minutes away from the Abbey. It’s much too far for me to pop in for a quick immersion into Benedictine spirituality when I need it. At home I live with a husband who is not Benedictine in his approach. In truth, he wants very little to do with organized religion at all. I also live with two teenagers. Neither of them cares about what some Italian Catholic dude from the 6th century has to say about how to live their lives. At home, it’s not so easy.
Yet I still call myself a Benedictine, because I strive to be one.
And that’s what’s at the heart of Benedictine spirituality: striving to serve God and all people according to the Rule of St. Benedict. In that Rule, St. Benedict lays out guidelines for a monastic community. He also recognizes that what works in one place may not work in another. There is flexibility in the Rule, provided that flexibility is employed in the service of God and to all people.
So that’s who I am. I’m a married mother of two, cohabitating with my secular family in a small city in New Hampshire in the 21st century. I was an ordained minister with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for fourteen years, and I’ve also worked as a bookkeeper and a middle school science teacher. And I’m trying to figure out how to live according to a Rule written by some Italian Catholic dude in the 6th century intended for a community of like-minded monks.
That’s who I am. I’m nobody, striving to serve God to the best of my ability and using the Rule of St. Benedict as my guide. Who are you? Are you nobody too? Then let there be a pair of us, but do tell! I’m sure there are more of us out there, and maybe we can encourage each other and figure this out together.