As I head for an annual retreat, I’d like to revisit some posts about the Monastery!
In my many visits to Mt. Saviour monastery, Madeleva would keep us all up to speed on her progress with her book research about the founding of Mt. Saviour and her family research. She was a brilliant woman who I would have truly benefited be able to know longer as I grew into more of my own womanhood. When my friend, John, called me to let me know about her passing, (I was pregnant, so easily emotional), but it was a shock, nobody really expected it based on what we were told. I had seen her just a couple of months before and she had been able to sign her book for me.
I remember, I didn’t even read what she wrote until she passed away, which says,
“Annette, may you continue to be part of this saga, running with joy on our mount of transfiguration. Love, Madaleva”
I remember being taken aback at the image of me running with joy! But I did, and I danced and sang and breathed in and out my gratitude for my coming home to that place where meals were provided, rooms were cozily kept and linens always were stuffed into the closets! Where the God of surprises whispered, “this is for you”.
The smells from the old stove still come alive to me and I can hear her sing-songy voice and her stories in the kitchen even now though she has been gone these 16 years. She gave me a whole new vision of religious life and I could totally dig it! Her Gospel life was bold and vibrant and full of Irish laughter! Her tales of Notre Dame or some run in with legislation, (she would be ROLLING now!) Her true compassionate heart which suffered fools only out of Benedictine hospitality. But when her face turned red and her eyes got wide, well, the storm was only stifled by a smile and some wisdom.
When my own hero, Fr. Dave Looney, (who shared her birthday) died ten years earlier, many of his “kids” returned to the place which he had introduced our hearts to. They too, had been friends and she greeted us knowing we were deeply wounded. I will never forget the feeling of love and sympathy in her arms. It was as if she were his stand-in and he wanted us to know it was ok. It was a painful weekend that was softened by her love and care. I still weep to think of it. Praise God. May I always weep for the generous love that is shown to me.
When I hear nuns talked about negatively in sweeping generalization, (and some not so good ones do exist) she remains one who stands out in my mind as the example of fidelity to the gospel and to her fellow person who lived within the Kingdom of God. As I return there time and again, I give thanks for the woman who showed me a profound, useful and humble way to live and to be fully engaged in life. I give thanks for a woman whose spirit still fills the rooms at the guesthouse where we stay and who made it feel okay to be a theological rebel then and even now. I give thanks for the feeling that began with her hospitality where I always feel I am coming home again.