The Nunnery Gets To Thee

In the opinion section of this Saturday’s Kansas City Star,  C.E. Austin, who serves at the U.S.Army School of Advanced Military Studies, wrote about Five Paradoxes We Struggle With. One of the paradoxes was “Consume vs. Contribute.”

As Americans we consume and consume and consume. How much do we really contribute? Try this technique. Make a journal for two weeks and write down every 30 minutes how you’ve spent your time. Try it. It can be very eye opening how much you consume, whether it be TV, Internet use, food, shopping or time for pleasure. Look at how much you throw away, or how much you own that you don’t use. Again, these thoughts are simply to spur thinking.

My sister-in-law, Jane Heschmeyer, a nun at the Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, was seated at the breakfast table as I read the quote above. I couldn’t help but think how little the nuns consume compared to those of us not living a monastic life. In fact, their convent is in the process of being reconstructed so that unneeded space is eliminated and geo-thermal heating can be installed and less fossil fuel consumed.

Compared to most people I know, the nuns at Clyde live a frugal life. Little is wasted. There is a minimum of technology–six cell phones among 40 people, no wi-fi, few televisions, computers or radios. For the most part, the nuns are contented and happy.

So, as far as consumption is concerned, they consume very little. But do the nuns, isolated from the secular world most of the time, contribute much, if anything? Besides baking altar breads and selling soap, the nuns don’t “make” anything. From one point of view, they are little more than a dwindling band of self-sustaining women leading a bucolic life in rural NorthWestern Missouri.

But I think that the Benedictine community at Clyde contributes a great deal. They are a gentle reminder that the life most of us live as Americans, a life that is face-paced, stressed, filled with self-interest, doubt and anger is not the only life choice available. Just because technology, media, and consumerism inundate our lives does not mean that we have to succumb to them.

We can stop “screening” our lives through constant use of smart phones, laptops and televisions. We can, on occasion, slow down and experience real life with people whom we can reach out and embrace. We can take our time and enjoy the food we eat. And we can give thanks for the miracle that is life on this beautiful, sweet planet.

We know this is possible because the small community in Clyde lives such a life and prospers because of it. That is their contribution. It is a brilliant gift at a time we desperately need it.

I’m not suggesting “Get Thee to a Nunnery.” I am suggesting that you allow the Nunnery to Get to Thee.

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