A Nun’s Life is blessed to have today’s post written by guest blogger Karol Bartlett.
I have always loved reading about food; be it the history behind recipes, food culture, food memories and all the places in-between. Recently, I picked up the summer issue of Gastronomica: the Journal of Food and Culture and was unexpectedly delighted to find an article entitled “Of Raspberries and Religion” by Susan H. Swetnam, a Professor of English at Idaho State University.
Professor Swetnam writes about the Benedictine Sisters at the Monastery of Saint Gertrude in Cottonwood, ID, from their arrival in Cottonwood in 1909 through the present. Integral in her discussion is the importance of a raspberry patch that started with canes donated by laypeople about the time of Vatican II. Through dedicated hard work and loving care, the patch grew and began to produce more raspberries than the nuns could consume.
Surplus berries are now made into jam and are also the main feature at the Saint Gertrude’s Annual Raspberry Festival where people come from miles around to enjoy raspberry shortcake. All proceeds go to support the work of the Sisters.
The story of the raspberries offers a glimpse into how these Benedictine women embraced the challenges set forth by Vatican II. With a joyfully optimistic theology based on God’s unconditional “loving kindness,” to use Saint Gertrude’s word, the sisters have incorporated the raspberries into their Benedictine lives of work, hospitality, ecospirituality, and even the story of Saint Gertrude herself, “taking delight in the sweetness of God’s love.” Professor Swetnam writes “Every time the sisters enter their garden, kitchen, and dining room, they are invited to enact a hybrid sense of vocation, simultaneously affirming their loyalty to the spiritual concerns of their tradition, to temporal priorities, and to the spirit of their founder.”
As I finished reading the article, I found myself going back to something the author had quoted—a single sentence from the Philosophy of Land Use, written in 1993 by the Sisters of the Monastery of Saint Gertrude: “Listening with the ear of our heart to the wisdom expressed through creation opens us to the deeper reality of God in our lives.”
What is the “raspberry” in your life that continues to draw you to God? When was the last time you worked physically close to the earth and heard God’s voice? Do you remember the message? Do you have something in abundance that can be shared with someone?