Belinda Monahan is a Benedictine Sister at St. Scholastica Monastery in Chicago. With an academic background in archaeology, anthropology and Eastern languages, she worked as an archaeologist, primarily as a faunal analyst in Armenia and the greater Near East. After making final monastic profession in 2014, she worked in parish ministry and on the executive committee of the managing board of the National Religious Vocation Conference. She currently serves as assistant campus minister at the Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University and as vocation minister for her community.
How has your prayer life grown in religious life? What makes it grow?
Every day, morning and evening, Sister Vivian wheels herself or is wheeled into St. Joseph Chapel at my monastery to take part in community prayers. Often, when I come home from work after supper, she is in the same chapel, alone in the dark, in silent prayer.
At 108, Sister Vivian can no longer see to read, so her participation in community prayer is limited to recitation of the psalms and canticles that she has memorized over the years. Even when she can no longer pray as she once did, her faithfulness to prayer, both communal and private, is both a support in my own prayer life and example I strive to follow.
Before I entered religious life, I was already praying Liturgy of the Hours regularly. The desire to be part of a community for whom that is a priority was one of the factors that attracted me to Benedictine life.
Praying morning and evening prayer with my community has set the rhythm of my days. My sisters, all of whom have prayed the Liturgy of the Hours longer than I have, both encourage and challenge me in this prayer. I am just now beginning to learn that communal prayer, as with all of community life, is not all about me. Even — maybe especially — when I am frustrated or annoyed, I am called to continue to participate wholeheartedly, not grudgingly.
Lectio divina, the traditionally Benedictine practice of ruminating on Scripture, was a prayer that was much less familiar to me before I entered community, and it is one with which I struggled at first. It was only after I stopped being concerned about "doing it right" or knowing exactly what God was trying to tell me every time I sat down with Scripture that I was able to find this form of prayer fruitful.
Now, I am able to reflect on Scripture and enjoy the time I spend with God daily without being worried about what happens during my prayer. I have to admit that clear insights or radically new understandings rarely, if ever, emerge for me. Over time, though, I do recognize a deeper ability and willingness to "hear" God in settings outside of my times of prayer. I believe this is directly related to the practice of working to listen during prayer. That deep listening for me is necessary as I live out my monastic promise of obedience.
We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists responded to this prompt: How has your prayer life grown in religious life? What makes it grow? CLICK HERE to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.
Can't get enough of the Benedictines? Check out this Motherhouse Road Trip to the Sisters of the Monastery of St. Gertrude, or this one to the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, Alabama!